1. Origins of coinage
The ancient Greeks believed that Croesus, the king of Lydia, was the first to mint gold and silver coins, although there are researchers who question the credibility of this tradition. The prevailing view is that, although the first silver coinage was cut in the kingdom of Lydia, only a very small number of coins might have been put in circulation before the conquest of the region by the Persians in 547 BC. The issue of gold coinage was later limited to the mints of Persia, whereas the cities of Asia Minor preferred the issue and circulation of silver coinage both in local and international markets. It is worth noting that an extremely small number of cities continued the tradition of minting electrum coins.1
2. Croeseid stater
This gold stater was given the name “croeseid” in Antiquity, because, according to tradition, king Croesus was the first to issue the aforementioned coin. On the obverse there is a lion facing right and a bull facing left, whereas on the reverse there is a concave square. The same types were depicted both on the silver coins and on some rare electrum coins. Some researchers believe that the first croeseid staters were cut during Croesus’ reign, whereas others maintain that the first minting occurred during Persian times. In both cases, however, the mint used for their issue was most probably located in Sardis.2
3. Daric staters
The term “daric” was used by the Greeks to describe the Persian gold coins. It is first mentioned by Herodotus, who describes a meeting between king Xerxes and a rich Lydian named Pythias. Pythias claimed to have possessed some four million dariac staters, a mythical amount of money for that time. Today, most researchers accept that the term “daric” originates from Darius I’s name. The earliest inscriptions on such coins are dated back to the middle of the 5th cent. BC and differentiate them from the croeseid staters. More specifically, the daric staters were gold coins bearing the depiction of a royal archer, which was later substituted by depictions of a lion and a bull. It is possible that the aforementioned coins circulated throughout the 5th cent. BC, although their issue started much earlier, probably at the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 5th cent. BC.3
The Greek word “siglos” (or siklos) is synonymous to the Hebrew word shekel, which had already been used before the invention of coinage in the markets of Asia Minor. The term siglos first appears in inscriptions dating back to the end of the 5th cent. BC and refers to a coin circulating widely up until the time of Alexander the Great. It was a silver coin of small denomination, bearing the depiction of a royal archer. Both its typology and the numismatic hoards confirm that they were issued and put in circulation at the same time as the daric staters (end of the 6th or beginning of the 5th cent. BC) and most probably by the same mint, Sardis. Although its use continued for centuries, its circulation was extremely limited.
More specifically, the siglos is mainly found in western Asia Minor hoards. It was rarely used in the markets of Egypt and Syria. It is also worth noting that later coins are most usually found in Persia (Babylon), a phenomenon leading to the conclusion that some of the later coins were cut in eastern mints, although western Asia Minor continued to issue large quantities.4
5. Non-persian mintsA considerable number of city-states in Asia Minor issued silver coins at the end of the 6th cent. BC. Chios began the issue of didrachms bearing the emblem of the city, a sphinx. At the same time, another island off the coast of western Asia Minor, Lesbos, issued coins of impure silver, deviating from the rule of the Archaic cities to issue coins of high quality metal. Miletus also issued silver diobols (and probably staters), bearing on the obverse the depiction of a lion and on the reverse the depiction of a star-shaped flower. Other mints that preferred silver to electrum were Phocaea, Samos, Erythrae, Clazomenae and Cnidus. The differentiations in the quality of metal, technical expertise and coin-weighing rules suggest the independent development of minting in various regions at the end of the 6th cent. BC. The Persian advance towards western Asia Minor of the same time does not seem to have influenced the issue of coinage, with the exception of the numismatic issues of the Ionian cities that took part in the 499 BC revolt. The staters cut in certain mints are similar in material and style. The issue of coinage was finally interrupted right after the suppression of the revolt and did not continue until the end of the Persian wars.5
1. According to a widespread view, the first minting of silver coinage belongs to the Persian period of the mint of Sardis. As a result, the beginning of the issue of both silver and gold coinage must be dated back to the same period. Price, M., “Croesus or pseudo-Croesus? Hoard or hoax? Problems concerning the sigloi and double sigloi of the Croeseid type”, in Houghton, A. et al. (ed.), Festschrift für Leo Mildenberg (Wetteren 1984), pp. 211-221.
2. See note 1. Also Vickers, M., “Early Greek Coinage: A reassessment”, Numismatic Chronicle 145 (1985), p. 1 onwards, mainly pp. 4-9. There is also a likely possibility that some of the coins date back to an earlier period. See Carradice, I., “The ‘Regal’ Coinage of the Persian Empire”, in Carradice, I. (ed.), Coinage and Administration in the Athenian and Persian Empires, The Ninth Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History (BAR International Series 343, Oxford 1987), pp. 73-95, mainly p. 74; Root, M.C., “Evidence from Persepolis for the dating of Persian and Archaic Greek Coinage”, Numismatic Chronicle 148 (1988), pp. 1-12.
3. See note 2. Carradice, I., “The ‘Regal’ Coinage of the Persian Empire”, in Carradice, I. (ed.), Coinage and Administration in the Athenian and Persian Empires, The Ninth Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History (BAR International Series 343, Oxford 1987), pp. 75-76; Descat, R., “Darius Ier et la monnaie”, Annali: Istituto Italiano di Numismatica 42 (1995), pp. 9-20.
4. Carradice, I., “The ‘Regal’ Coinage of the Persian Empire”, in Carradice, I. (ed.), Coinage and Administration in the Athenian and Persian Empires, The Ninth Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History (BAR International Series 343, Oxford 1987), pp. 76-90; Kraay, C.M., Archaic and Classical Greek Coins (London 1976), pp. 32-34.
5. Carradice, I., Price, M., Coinage in the Greek World (London 1988), pp. 32-33; Jenkins, G.K., Ancient Greek Coins2 (London 1990), pp. 18-19.