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Coin Depicting the God Zeus

A work made of bronze.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of bronze.

Date:

1st century BCE

Artist:

Greek

About this artwork

The use of coins as a form of money was invented in western Asia Minor in the early 7th century BCE. At the time when the coins in this case were struck, Greece was made up of separate city-states that issued their own currency. Made of gold, silver, bronze, and electrum (a gold-silver alloy), coins were literally worth their weight, but their value varied according to the percentage of their precious metal content. Occasionally a city needed more money than it had in reserves. By reducing the amount of precious metal and substituting a base metal, a coin could be produced of the same weight but no longer of the same value. Some currency was only honored within its own city walls, but trustworthy money encouraged trade. Athens had the biggest economy, and its coin became the standard in the Greek world. The population was largely illiterate, but it could identify the place of origin of a coin by its imagery. Many of these images referred to myths that were associated with the history of the community and thus were well known to the populace from religious ceremonies and theatrical entertainment. The story of a city’s founding, a local hero, the city’s guardian deity, and even the reason for the city’s wealth were subjects for a coin’s insignia.

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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium

Artist

Ancient Greek

Title

Coin Depicting the God Zeus

Origin

Greece

Date

100 BCE–1 BCE

Medium

Bronze

Dimensions

Diam. 1.9 cm; 7.80 g

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number

1920.3042

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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