Athenian Tetradrachm

Last week I started introducing to you my collection of ancient coins. Here I continue with another fine example: the Athenian Tetradrachm also known as the “Athenian owl”. 



Classical Aegean city-states


5th century BC


Attica, Athens


454-404 BC


AR Tetradrachm

Metal: silver

Quality: F


24 x 22 mm


17.425 g






Head of Athena to right, with archaic smile and a frontal almond-shaped eye, wearing earring, and Attic helmet, decorated with three olive leaves and a spiral palmette on the bowl






Owl standing to right, head facing, two-leafed olive sprig and crescent to top left, AΘE to right (abbreviation of  ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ [ATHENAION], “of the Athenians”)


 Paid $220 US




Wikipedia, CoinWeek

Sear GCV I: 2526 (pp. xi-xii, 235-238). [Goodreads]

This type of coin was struck by most Greek city-states of the Aegean Sea during the classical era (5th & 4th century BC). It is probably one of the best known examples of Greek Coinage because they were produced in large quantity and widely used throughout the Mediterranean. The city-state of Athens dominated the area from its victory over the Persian (in 479 BC) to the end of the Peloponnesian War (in 404 BC) when it was itself defeated by the Spartans. Also a great quantity of coins were struck after Pericles took over and moved the treasury of the Delian league to Athens (in 454 BC). During that period, the Athenian Tetradrachm (i.e. of the value of four drachmae) was the most common coinage and characterized by the head of the goddess Athena on the obverse and a representation of the owl of Athena on the reverse. Funnily, we can still find similar representations on modern greek drachma or even on greek euro coins !

It is definitely one of my favourite coins because it is one of the oldest, it is in a fine condition and I really like the iconic image of the owl, which represents knowledge and wisdom. 

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Ancient coins 2

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