(Lydian electrum coin of an uncertain king. Early 6th century BC. EL Third Stater – Trite (4.71 gm). Head of roaring lion right, sun with multiple rays on forehead _ Double incuse punch, courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group via Creative Commons (CC 2.5))
Coins are one of the great historical collector’s items of the ancient world. Each coin displays symbols about what was important to its country of origin. Coins also served as propaganda, allowing rulers to depict themselves as they wished to be seen. Regarding the Ancient Greeks, the use of precious metal coins is believed to have begun in Lydia—a kingdom that, at its height, touched the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas from its base of power in western Anatolia.
Coins from Lydia have been dated as far back as 625-600 BCE. Lydian coinage was often decorated with an iconic image of a lion. Most of the coins seem to have been made from electrum (an alloy of gold and silver), which could be found naturally in the region of Lydia.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
- The Histories by Herodotus, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt and revised by John Marincola. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.