The trade during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age was a barter, where the big bullions or small nodules of precious metals were the most commonly used as the exchange products. The beaten coin comes from these nodules. We can divide its development into three stadiums.
The beginning of the monetary system
Initially, the deep embossment in the nodule was made with the hit of metal bar to asses if it is completely metal or only coated with it. Subsequently, narrow grooves were punched at the underside of each module which edges indicated the rate of consumption of a nodule. Finally, punching an emblem, which guaranteed its value and origin, became popular. That’s how the metal nodule became the first real coin.
When the first, minor nominal, coins were produced, the first coin was acknowledged as a basic monetary unit with fixed weigh. This event occurred in the 7th century in Lydia, where the special need for this arose. There were deposit of electrum then, the natural alloy of gold and silver. The variable proportion of gold and silver caused the variability of its value.
Gyges, Lydia’s king, normalized the emission of electrum in various categories, depending on a pale or dark colour and guaranteed the value of his coins from this metal. This was the official emission of this country: with the head of a lion on bigger coins, and the lion’s paw on the smaller ones. The weigh of each emissions were probably dependent on n rate of gold included as well as the exchange value of gold bullion.
The Gyges’s invention was taken over by Millet and Effuse, which were tightly connected with Lydia. They released the electrum coins with national emblems: a lion with a head turned back and a bee or a deer. Focaya, Chios and Samos did the same. Chios and Samos soon released silver coins too. Electrum, often called “Gyges’ gold” became popular in the whole Greek world. However its fame was soon eclipsed by the coins produced from two different kinds of metal by Lydia’s king – Croesus. He emitted coins from pure silver and gold. They were prototypes of Persian gold and silver money, the purest and the most beautiful current coins of the ancient world, till the times of Philip from Macedonia.
The Greek peninsula didn’t have electrum or gold deposits. The iron was mined from various places, especially on Eubea and in Lacunae, the copper - on Eubea and silver in Attic. The creator of the monetary system on the peninsula was Feydon, the king of Agros, whose money, produced from silver, appeared simultaneously with the new metric and weight system, which was soon taken over by most countries on the continent.
The value of the new coins was assessed in relation to the iron, because iron bars, handfuls of iron bars and large bullions were the normal exchange product for the continent citizens. That’s how new coins were given old names: obols and drachmas, one drachma was the equivalent of six obols.
Creating monetary system in Agros was the official state act, similarly to Lydia. That’s why Feydon devoted metal bars to Herze, the goddess taking care of the country.
On Egyn the mint of silver coins was established. The coins were punched with en emblem with sea turtle and a deep embossment. Egyn’s coins were a copy of Lydian ones. The Egyn’s turtles remained standard coins on Peloponnesus (excluding Olympia) for over two centuries and were still current much longer.
Lydian and Egynian coins were based on different metric and weight systems and fixed in relation to various metals. A connection between them was created by releasing a coin of silver weight related to Lydian as well as Egynian system.
The new weight rate was Eubea’s foot. Corinthian staters, according to Eubea’s foot, were in circulation on the West as well as on the continent and in the Agean Sea basin. Corinth was the biggest exchange centre in the Mediterranean area.
When other countries started to produce coins, each of them created own foot according to the local conditions., because all coins were assessed depending on their real value of silver, gold or electrum included. As a result, the exact weight of coins was variable in different countries.
Nevertheless, the two systems: Egynian and Eubean, were the most popular till the year 550.
Egyna belonged to the first of them and serviced Peloponnesus, Meguro, Athens till the year 593, Beocy and southern islands on Agean Sea between Egyn on the west and Bodos on the east, including Knidos and Kaunos on the neighboring Asian cost. Corinth, Athens after about year 593, Chalkis, Samos and Cyren belonged to Eubean system. The systems of Lydia, Millet, Effuse, Focay and Chios were similar to Eubean system. The existence of two basic systems corresponded with the existence of two different trade zones. The Athens’s switch from one system to another indicates the change of their financial and trade policy.
On the west coins were produced since the 6th century. It was caused by Jon’s excursions, which opened the Far West to Greeks and the Spanish silver appeared on the market, supplying the mints of Himef, Selinunt and Zankl. These cities produced coins referring to their own foot. Later, Nakos joined them.
Tarent, Sybaris, Metapontion, Kaulonia, Krotona and Rhegion in Italy were producing coins referring to Corinthian foot and from Corinthian silver, around year 550. Korkyra which was situated in the way to Italy had its own foot, which was probably expressing its emancipation from Corinth control. Sircuazi and other south-eastern Sicilian cities started producing coins a bit later, probably because they were always trading with Corinth. A relation between the emission of coins and sea trade was visible in the West. The early coins had a big nominal. They were designed for huge transactions rather than interior, minor trade.
The development of monetary system in Greece
Greek monetary system developed mainly in the principal international exchange centers, in polis which benefited from the trade. These cities created three groups: Ionic with Millet and Effuse, Egynian which involved Egyn and its financial collaborators and Corinthian with the Corinth as a principal. As the money became more and more popular, second-class trade centers, such as: Himer, Tarent and Korkyra around year 550 and Sircuaz, Cyren, Potiday and Tazos after 550 began producing coins as well.
Greek polis evaded uniformity, not only when it came to monetary system but also other aspects. What is more, from the very beginning each feet competed with each other. The main function of the money was accelerating the trade exchange and enriching the polis.
The implementation of the monetary system had also far-reaching results, because it stimulated the development of a minor interior trade and the new form of possession in each polis. Some countries, like Sprat, Crete and Byzantium, didn’t agree on implementing money. They preserved their social and political institutions at the expense of falling behind in the race of financial power.