Rare gold coin of Athens

Contributed by The Hunterian

Rare gold coin of Athens

This extremely rare gold stater of Athens, depicting Athena, was issued by the tyrant Lachares in 296 BC to pay his troops during the siege of Athens by Demetrius "the besieger", king of Macedon. The colossal gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena, in the Parthenon on the Acropolis, was stripped of its gold which was then struck into coins. This was the only known example when King George III gave it to William Hunter. A few more have turned up but it is still excessively rare.

The cities of ancient Greece generally used silver for their coins. Gold, with its high value, was unsuitable for small transactions and gold coins were usually only issued in an emergency.

Athens, in Attica (a province of central Greece) is the most famous of all ancient Greek cities, both politically and culturally. The pinnacle of its glory was in the mid-fifth century BC, between the Persian wars and the Peloponnesian war, when it was ruled by Pericles.

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