The tetradrachm (Greek: τετράδραχμον) was an Ancient Greek silver coin equivalent to four drachmae. It replaced the earlier heraldic type of didrachms and it was in wide circulation from 510 to 38 BC.
The transition from heraldic type of didrachms to tetradrachms minted by the polis of Athens occurs shortly after the Battle of Salamis, 480 BC. This transition is supported by the discovery of contemporary coin hoards, particularly on the coin hoard found on the Acropolis in 1886. The Athenian tetradrachm was widely used in transactions throughout the ancient Grecian world, including in cities politically unfriendly to Athens. Athens had silver mines in state ownership, which provided the bullion. Most well known were the silver mines of Laurium at a close distance from Athens. The Athenian tetradrachm was stamped with the head of Athena on the obverse, and on the reverse the image of the owl of Athena, the iconographic symbol of the Athenian polis, with a sprig of olive and a crescent for the moon. According to Philochorus, it was known as glaux (γλαύξ, owl) throughout the ancient world and "owl" in present day numismatics. The design was kept essentially unchanged for over two centuries, by which time it had become stylistically archaic. To differentiate their currency from the rival coinage of Aegina using the Aeginetic stater of about 12.3 grams, Athens minted its tetradrachm based on the "Attic" standard of 4.3 grams per drachma. The vast number of "owls-tetradrachms" available those days mainly from the silver mines of Laurium financed the several achievements of Athens, such as the reconstruction of the Acropolis and building the Parthenon, as well as many Wars, including the Peloponnesian War.
The tetradrachm's use as a currency was soon adopted by many other city-states of the ancient Greece, Asia Minor, Magna Grecia and other Greek colonial cities throughout the Mediterranean Sea. With the armies of Alexander the Great it spread to the Greek-influenced areas of present-day Iran and India.
Tetradrachm of Olympia
Tetradrachm of Sparta
Tetradrachm of Abdera
Tetradrachm of Troy
Tetradrachm of Kyme
Tetradrachm of Rhegion
Tetradrachm of Naxos
Tetradrachm of Cleopatra III
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- Androulakis, Yiannis. "History of the Greek coins". Fleur-de-Coin. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- Yannis Stoyas, Archaeologist – numismatist, The coinages of Athens
- Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 22.7
- Philochorus: Scholion to Aristophanes, Birds 1106.
- Kraay, C.M. The archaic owls of Athens: classification and chronology.
- "Tetradrachm (silver)". Coin Cabinet. Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Retrieved 2008-01-20.[dead link]
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