Aegina

Silver Drachm, ca. 350 BCE
weight: 5.1g, width: 1.73cm

Aegina OBVAegina REV

OBV.: Land turtle, head turned right, seen from above, flanked by the initials of AIGINA, the letter "alpha" on its left, "iota" on the right.
REV.: Five-part incuse square with thin, partly rectilinear bands; remnants of letters (?) in upper two divisions, of a dolphin in lower rectangular division.

HFMA nr. 2006.010.014. Ref.: Kraay (1976) nr. 138.
 
From the seventh to the fifth century BCE, Aegina, an island in the Saronic Gulf, 17 miles (30km) west of Athens, was a great naval power. It contributed the third-largest contingent of ships to the Greek fleet that defeated the Persians at Salamis in 480 BCE. Its trade connections reached all over the Mediterranean. Its harbor was a distribution center for wheat from the Black Sea, and Aegina was one of the first three Greek states that was allowed to run a trading post in Naucratis, Egypt's most important seaport.

Aegina was also the first state in Greece proper to mint coins, starting around 580 BCE. The design changed little over the centuries: The obverse always showed the badge of the city, first a sea turtle, later a land turtle or tortoise; the reason for this change is unknown. The reverse was marked with a simple windmill-shaped incuse pattern. Not surprisingly, the nickname for these coins was chelonai (turtles). Up to the Peloponnesian War, the chelonai were the only universally accepted coinage in the Peloponnese, and the Aeginetan weight standard was adopted even in Northern Greece and parts of Asia Minor. In fact, Aegina's money was so well-known that it gave rise to a proverb: "Virtue and wisdom are vanquished by turtles."

In 458 BCE, Athens subdued its old rival, Aegina. In 431 BCE, the first year of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians expelled the inhabitants and distributed their land among Athenian settlers. The Aeginetans, who had been resettled by the Spartans, could only return after Athens was defeated in 404 BCE. They celebrated the liberation of their island by issuing coins, such as our specimen, that again showed the traditional tortoise. Only the incuse pattern was slightly different: the lines of the windmill pattern are now thinner, and the different fields contain symbols like a dolphin and the letters AIG or the initials of the magistrates supervising the minting process.

O.K.

Literature:
Kraay, Colin M., Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976.

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