Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 1.: Of the Attic Drachm. - A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money
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§ 1.: Of the Attic Drachm. - John Ramsay McCulloch, A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money 
A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money from the Originals of Vaughan, Cotton, Petty, Lowndes, Newton, Prior, Harris, and Others, with a Preface, Notes, and Index (London: Printed for the Political Economy Club, 1856).
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Of the Attic Drachm.
THE Greek coins were not only money, but weights. Thus their Drachm was both a piece of money, and a weight; their Mina was 100 Drachms as a sum, and the same number as a weight; and their Talent contained 60 Minas, or 6000 Drachms, both by weight and tale.
This way of reckoning 100 Drachms to the Mina, and 60 Minas to the Talent, was common to all Greece; and where the Drachm of one city differed from that of another, their respective Talents differed in the same proportion.*
Of all the Greek cities and free states, both in Europe and the lesser Asia, Athens was the most famous for the fineness of its silver, and the justness of its weight† : Xenophon tells us, that whithersoever a man carried Attic silver, he would sell it to advantage.* And their money deserves our more particular attention, both because we have the most unexceptionable evidence of its standard weight; and what little we know of the money of other Greek cities, is chiefly by comparison with this.
The current coin of Athens, was the silver Drachm, which they divided into 6 Oboles, and struck silver pieces of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 Oboles, of half an Obole, and a quarter of an Obole.† Their larger coins above the Drachm were, the Didrachm, the Tridrachm‡ , and the Tetradrachm; which last they call Stater, or the standard.
It does not appear that they coined copper till the 26th year of the Peloponnesian war, when Callias was a second time Archon.§ It was soon after publickly cried down; and the conclusion of the proclamation was to this effect, that, silver is the lawful money of Athens.? But they seem to have had copper money not long after; for Theophrastus, Demosthenes, and some of the Comic Poets, quoted by Athenæus and Pollux, mention the Chalcus, which was the name of the copper coin.¶ Many pieces of Attic copper are now in being** ; and Vitruvius says, they coined copper Oboles, and quarter Oboles.††
Authors differ in the value of the Chalcus; some say, it was the sixth part of an Obole,* others the 8th† ; Pliny (speaking of it as a weight) the 10th‡ ; and Vitruvius, in the place before quoted, says, some called the quarter of an Obole Dichalcon, others Trichalcon. According to Polybius, it seems to have been the 8th part, for he makes a quarter of an Obole equal to half a Roman As§ ; but the Denarius passing for 16 Asses, and the Drachm for 6 Oboles, if a quarter of an Obole was equal to half an As, the Denarius should be greater than the Drachm, which it never was. Polybius, therefore, gives this for the nearest value of half an As in Greek money, as it was if the Obole passed for 8 Chalci; but had it passed for 10, he would have said one 5th of an Obole, which is nearer to the true value of half an As; or had it passed for 6, he would have said one sixth, which is still nearer; in either case, he would not have said one fourth, as neither 10 nor 6 admits of that division. But though, when Polybius wrote, the Obole might pass for 8 Chalci, it is not impossible that at different times, or in different places, it may have passed for 6, 10, and 12.
It is a common opinion, that the Athenians coined gold, for which I can find no good authority; and from the best information I have been able to get, there does not appear to be any Attic gold coin now remaining, that was struck while they were a free and flourishing people.
The lexicographers, indeed, tell, us, the ???????? ??????? was equal to the Daric,* and speak of gold mines at Laurium† ; but no ancient writer mentions such a coin, and all agree that the mines at Laurium were silver.‡
A passage in the Frogs of Aristophanes is, I believe, the only positive proof that can be produced from any ancient author in favour of this opinion. In ver. 732 of that comedy, he mentions a new gold coin. The scholiast on this passage tells us, that in the Archonship of Antigenes, the Athenians coined their golden images of Victory; and the author of the treatise ???? ?????????, § 298, praises an orator for the happy choice of his expression, when he proposed this expedient; but he neither mentions the orator’s name, nor the time when this happened, nor whether the Athenians followed his advice; though the scholiast’s short quotation from Philochorus seems to imply that they did. But if in ver. 732. above mentioned, for ???????, we read ???????, it will agree better with ver. 737. where the Poet calls this money ?????? ??????; and the scholiast on these words says, perhaps the Poet means the copper money of Callias; and this comedy was acted in his second Archonship, when that copper money was coined.
That they had no gold coin at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, appears from the account Thucydides gives of the treasure then in the Acropolis, which consisted of silver in coin, and gold and silver bullion§ ; but he would certainly have mentioned gold in coin, had there been any.
Therefore the ???????? ??????? of Aristophanes could not be gold, nor the base ?????? ??????? of equal value with the Daric; whence I conclude, ?????? ??????? to be the true reading; and that it was the copper money above mentioned, which was afterward cried down.
Athenæus tells us that gold was extremely scarce in Greece, even in the time of Philip of Macedon; but that, after the Phoceans had plundered the Pythian temple, it shone forth among the Greeks.* Philip conquered these Phoceans, and put an end to the holy war, as it was called.
About the time this war broke out, he took the city Crenides, on the borders of Thrace, which he enlarged, and called Philippi, after his own name; and he so improved the gold mines in its district, which before were of small account, that they produced above a thousand talents yearly, and enabled him to coin gold, which he called Philippics.†
What Athenæus says of the scarcity of gold, may be true, if confined to Macedon, and the poorer states of Greece; but must not be extended to Corinth or Athens; for though Thucydides does not specify the quantity of gold that was in the Athenian treasury at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, it was, probably, not inconsiderable; for the gold about the statue of Minerva weighed 40 talents, which valued (according to Herodotus) at 13 times its weight in silver, will be found to amount to above 120,000 pounds sterling.
There is a gold coin in the British Museum, of elegant workmanship, with the head of Minerva on one side, and the owl and oil bottle on the other, the inscription ??? and under the oil bottle the letters ??. It weighs 109½ Troy grains; but being a little worn, it probably, when new, came up to the just weight of the Roman Imperial Aureus. Whence we may conclude, that, when this piece was struck, the Athenians had reduced their money to the Roman standard, and that their Drachm was then equal to the Denarius. But I cannot find there is any Attic gold now extant, that was coined before Greece became subject to the Romans.
The Persian Daric seems to have been the gold coin best known at Athens in ancient times. This they called Stater,* probably because it was the standard to which their Drachm was originally adjusted, which the Lexicographers tell us was half its weight.†
Though Greaves says, the Daric is still found in Persia, it is certainly very scarce, and perhaps of doubtful antiquity.
For want, therefore, of the Daric, we must have recourse to the gold of Philip, who took either that coin or the Attic Drachm for his standard; as will appear, when I come to compare his money, and that of his son Alexander, with the Attic silver. This he probably did, with a view to his intended invasion of Asia; for the ancient standard of Macedon was very different from that of Athens, as I shall shew hereafter.
Philip and his son Alexander coined gold of 4, 2, 1, and half an Attic Drachm. Mr. Duane hath a coin of Berenice, the wife of the second Antiochus, weighing a quarter of a Drachm. In the Pembroke collection is a gold medal of Lysimachus, of 8 Drachms; and Mr. Duane hath another of the like weight. But the Daric or ??????? was didrachmal, and there are more of that species now remaining, than of any other.
In the British Museum are three gold coins of Philip, which have all the sharpness of new money fresh from the mint. The heaviest of them weighs above 132? Troy grains. A fourth, in the same collection, hath a hole punched through it; but in other respects, seems as perfect as the rest, and is the heaviest but one, of the four. There is likewise, a double Philippic of Alexander, perfect and unworn, which weighs 265 grains.
There are two more of Philip, in this collection, each weighing 132 grains, one of Alexander, of 132?, and another of 131?; but these are all a little worn, therefore I shall make no use of them.
Mr. Stuart brought home a Philippic, which, though not so fair in appearance as the best in the British Museum, weighed 133 grains.
Out of seven of the most perfect gold coins of Philip and Alexander, in Mr. Duane’s collection, four weighed 133 grains each. He hath a most beautiful coin of Alexander of Epirus, brother to Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, weighing 132? grains; the workmanship is exquisitely fine, and as perfect as when it was first struck.
Greaves tells us, he bought at Alexandria a Philippic of Alexander, which he thought the fairest in the world, weighing exactly 133½ English grains. But, to bring it up to the standard of his Tetradrachm of 268 grains, he supposes it might want half a grain, either by time, or the mint.* His mentioning the mint shews, he could not discern any appearance of wear upon it, therefore I suppose it was perfect.
He found two of the same weight in the possession of Sir Simonds D’Ewes.
He bought another at Constantinople, which weighed 133 grains; with which comparing one of Sir John Marsham, he found the latter a grain deficient.
He quotes Snellius for two gold coins, one of Philip, the other of Alexander, each weighing 179 Dutch grains, which, he says, answer to 134½ English.* But in this he is mistaken, for they answer to no more than 132.† Snellius, to favour an ill founded hypothesis of his own, supposes they had lost somewhat of their first weight,‡ but does not say they had any such appearance; and as they outweigh the heaviest in the British Museum, it is probable they were perfect.
In the Pembroke collection are two gold coins, one of Philip, weighing 134 grains, the other of Alexander, weighing 266, which, by their weights, should be perfect.
The difference between the heaviest and the lightest of these pieces supposed to be perfect, does not amount to two grains in the Philippic; and a mean, taken from such a number of coins, so equally sized, must be very near their original standard weight.
In the following table, I have not inserted any piece, that I had reason to believe was sensibly deficient of its original weight. Therefore I have omitted Sir John Marsham’s coin of 132 grains, which being deficient of the least weight I have found in any perfect piece, it is most probable it was a little worn. I have likewise omitted three coins in the Pembroke collection, of 132 grains each, for the same reason.
The pieces under the letter M, are from the British Museum; those under D, from Mr. Duane’s collection; that marked S, Mr. Stuart’s; G, is the mark for those mentioned by Mr. Greave’s; Sn. for the two of Snellius; and P, for two from the Pembroke collection. The parts of a grain are given in decimals, for the convenience of adding them.
As none of these pieces can have increased their original weight, but, on the contrary, some may have lost a small part of it, we may fairly conclude, that the standard weight of the Philippic was not less than 133 Troy grains; but probably somewhat greater.
In the Pembroke collection is a gold coin, or rather medal, of Lysimachus, weighing 540 grains. Mr. Duane hath another of them, which wants but 2 grains of the same weight. This piece should weigh 8 Drachms, and is of great importance on that account, as large weights and measures are more to be depended on, in inquiries of this kind, than smaller. According to this coin the Philippic should weigh 135 grains, and the double Philippic 270: but none have yet been found to come up to these weights. Some few silver Tetradrachms exceed 270 grains, but they are very uncommon, and far the greatest number of such as seem most perfect, fall short of 266. Neither is the ancient silver so correctly sized, as to stand in competition with the gold of Philip and Alexander. Therefore, either the mint-weights of Lysimachus were heavier than the Philippic standard, or his money was less carefully sized: or, lastly, this piece, being intended rather for a medal than a coin, was purposely, over sized.
The silver coins of Philip and Alexander confirm what the lexicographers tell us, that the golden Stater of Philip, weighed two Drachms.
In the British Museum is a Drachm of Philip, weighing 67 grains, and another of Alexander of 66?, both perfect. In the Pembroke collection is one of Alexander, which weighs 67 grains. These give a didrachm of 134?, 133?, and 134 grains.
I shall now shew, that this was the Attic Drachm.
The silver Stater, or Tetradrachm, is the most common Attic coin now remaining, and some of them are in very perfect preservation. They all have the head of Minerva on one side, and an owl on the other, with the inscription ???. Eisenschmid observes, that they appear, by the workmanship, and other circumstances, to be of different ages.*
The most ancient are very rude work,† of a small diameter and thick. He had one of them in the most perfect preservation, weighing 273? Troy grains; and there is one like it in the British Museum of 272 grains.
The second sort is somewhat better work, though rude, and the owl stands in a square; but in other respects is like the former. The eighth and ninth coins P. II. T. 48. of the Pembroke collection, seem to be of this sort. The eighth weighs 266 grains; and by having the weight put to it, and not to either of the other two in the same plate, I suppose it is well preserved, and perhaps perfect. These and the above mentioned have an olive branch coming from the edge to the owl; and both, by the rudeness of the work, should be older than the time of Pericles, under whose administration sculpture flourished at Athens.
The work of a third sort is more elegant, though not highly finished. Its diameter is equal to that of an English half crown. The face of Minerva is beautiful; the owl stands on an oil bottle, and is encompassed by two olive branches, and, besides the inscription ???, hath some monograms and symbols near the owl.
A fourth sort, of the same size, is generally higher finished; and besides the inscription ???, hath instead of the monograms, a name or names about the owl, perhaps of the mint-masters, or, as Mr. Stuart conjectures, of the owners of the mine that produced the silver. These likewise have commonly some symbol near the owl. Some of them have a letter on the belly of the oil bottle, and two letters under it, as it were in an exergue. They seem to be of a later date than the last mentioned; for none that I have seen have the ? for ?, or the ? for ? in the names, though they retain the ? in ???; but the long vowels did not come into use at Athens till after the Peloponnesian war, as appears by inscriptions now remaining,* therefore, these must have been struck after that time; and if any now remain, that were struck during that war, they must be those with monograms.
The Attic money is not so equally sized as the Philippic silver. Mr. Duane hath a Tetradrachm with the letter ? on the oil bottle, and ?? under it, inscribed ?????? ???????, which weighs 271¾ grains, and another with the same letters on and under the oil bottle, inscribed ????????? ????????, in as perfect preservation, which weighs but 265 grains.
An Attic Tetradrachm in the British Museum, which appears to be but little worn, and not otherwise diminished, weighs but 247½ grains. We can hardly suppose, that this was struck to the same standard as Eisenschmid’s ancient Tetradrachm of above 273 grains. That in the Pembroke collection, of 207 grains, hath probably been filed on the edge.
There are, however, a considerable number of Attic Tetradrachms, that answer in weight to those of Philip and Alexander, as nearly as can be expected, from coins so unequally sized. Mr. Stuart brought a very ancient one from Greece, weighing 265½ grains; Mr. Duane hath one of the like age, which weighs 265¼; they are both well preserved, and can have lost very little of their original weight: one, with a monogram and symbol, of 266¾ grains; another, inscribed +??? of the same weight, two of 265 grains, and one of 265¼. These answer so nearly to the weights of Alexander’s Tetradrachms, that we cannot doubt of the equality of his standard to that of Athens. And the gold Philippies of him and his father are so correctly sized, and so perfect, that the mean Didrachm derived from them, of 133 Troy grains, must be very near its just weight; and its half, 66½, that of the Attic Drachm.
[* ]Pollux, L. IX. c. 6. § 86.
[† ]See Aristophanes, Ranæ ver. 733. Polybius, in Excerpt. Leg. § 28. ??????? ?? ??????? ???????? ?? ????????? ??????? ?. ?. ?. and § 35. ???????? ?? ???? ????????? ???????? ???????? ??????. ?. ?. ?.
[* ]Xenophon ???? ????????. c. 3. ??? ?? ???????? ?????????, ????? ???????? ?????????· ???? ??? ?? ???????? ????, ????????? ??????? ???? ??????? ???????????.
[† ]The piece of 50 gr. in P. II. T. 48. of the Pembroke collection, seems to be a Pentobolon; and the first in that plate a Hemiobolion. Mr. Stuart brought both half and quarter Oboles of silver from Athens.
[‡ ]Pollux, L. IX. c. 6. § 60. There is a half Tridrachm of Alexander in the British Museum.
[§ ]See the Schol. on ver. 737 of Aristophanis Ranæ.
[? ]Aristoph. Eccles. ver. 810 and the following.
[¶ ]Theophrast. ???? ????????, and ???? ?????????. Demosthenes c. Midiam. Athenæus, L. III. c. 32. and elsewhere. Pollux, L. IX. c. 6. § 65.
[** ]Pembroke Coll. P. II. T. 48.
[†† ]Vitruv. L. III. c. 1.
[* ]Suidas, v. ??????. v. ????????. and one of the fragments in the appendix to Stephens’s Greek Thesaurus, col. 217.
[† ]Pollux. L. IX. c. 6. § 65. 67. Suidas v. ?????????????. The fragments ascribed to Galen and to Cleopatra in Stephens’s Greek Thesaurus, col. 215, 217. That ascribed to Dioscorides says, the third part. These fragments speak of it as a weight, not a coin.
[‡ ]Pliny, Nat. Hist. L. XXI. near the end of the last chapter.
[§ ]Polybius, L. II. p. 103. of Casaubon’s edit.
[* ]Pollux, L. IX. c. 6. § 53. Suidas, v. ?????. v. ????????. Harpocratio, v. ????????.
[† ]Suidas, v. ?????. Hesychius, v. ???????.
[‡ ]Thucyd. L. II. § 55. and L. VI. § 91. Xenoph. ???? ????????. Strabo L. IX. p. 399, and Pausanias at the beginning of his first book.
[§ ]Thucyd. L. II. § 13.
[* ]Athenæus, L. VI. p. 231. See Diodorus, L. XVI. p. 527. Stephens’s edit.
[† ]Diodorus, L. XVI. p. 514.
[* ]Herodotus, L. VII. § 28. and Thucyd. L. VIII. § 28. call it ?????? ????????.
[† ]Pollux, L. IV. c. 24. Hesychius, v. ????????.
[* ]Greaves, p. 72.
[* ]P. 71.
[† ]Eisenschmid. p. 16, says, Budelius, who was master of the mint at Cologne, found the money ounce used in Flanders and the United Provinces, to weigh 579? Paris grains (equal to 475[Editor: ?] Troy) and that Gassendus found it but 577. See also the Memoires of the Royal Academy of Science, for the year 1767. pp. 364, 370. I weighed the Dutch half marc of 4 ounces, from Amsterdam, in an excellent balance, and found it to weigh 3 ounces, 19 p. weight, and 4 grains Troy; which divided by 4, gives 19 p. weight, 19 grains, or 475 Troy grains, for the weight of the Dutch ounce. This ounce contains 640 Dutch grains; and
[‡ ]See Snellius de re nummaria, Vol. IX. of the Thesaurus Antiquitatum Græcarum, col. 1583.
[* ]Eisenschmid. p. 44.
[† ]See Eisenschmid’s figure, and c. 7. of P. II. T. 48, of the Pembroke collection.
[* ]See Montfaucon’s Palæographia Græca, p. 135, and the Marmor Atheniense, lately published by Mr. Chambers. The Scholiast on ver. 688 of Euripides’s Phœnissæ dates the introduction of the long vowels into Athens, in the Archonship of Euclides.