Drachma (₯; Greek: δραχμή Modern Greek: [ðraxˈmi], Ancient Greek: [drakʰmέː];[n 1] pl. drachmae or drachmas) was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:
An ancient Greek currency unit issued by many Greek city states during a period of ten centuries, from the Archaic period throughout the Classical period, the Hellenistic period up to the Roman period under Greek Imperial Coinage.
Three modern Greek currencies, the first introduced in 1832 and the last replaced by the euro in 2001 (at the rate of 340.750 drachma to the euro). The euro did not begin circulating until 2002 but the exchange rate was fixed on 19 June 2000, with legal introduction of the euro taking place in January 2002.
It was also a small unit of weight.
The name drachma is derived from the verb δράσσομαι (drássomai, "(I) grasp").[n 3] It is believed that the same word with the meaning of "handful" or "handle" is found in Linear B tablets of the Mycenean Pylos.[n 4] Initially a drachma was a fistful (a "grasp") of six oboloí or obeloí (metal sticks, literally "spits") used as a form of currency as early as 1100 BC and being a form of "bullion": bronze, copper, or iron ingots denominated by weight. A hoard of over 150 rod-shaped obeloi were uncovered at Heraion of Argos in Peloponnese. Six of them are displayed at the Numismatic Museum of Athens.
It was the standard unit of silver coinage at most ancient Greek mints, and the name 'obol' was used to describe a coin that was one-sixth of a drachma. The notion that "drachma" derived from the word for fistful was recorded by Herakleides of Pontos (387–312 BC) who was informed by the priests of Heraion that Pheidon, king of Argos, dedicated rod-shaped obeloi to Heraion. Similar information about Pheidon's obeloi was also recorded at the Parian Chronicle.
Ancient Greek coins normally had distinctive names in daily use. The Athenian tetradrachm was called owl, the Aeginetic stater was called chelone, the Corinthian stater was called hippos (horse) an so on. Each city would mint its own and have them stamped with recognizable symbols of the city, known as badge in numismatics, along with suitable inscriptions, and they would often be referred to either by the name of the city or of the image depicted. The exact exchange value of each was determined by the quantity and quality of the metal, which reflected on the reputation of each mint.
Among the Greek cities that used the drachma were: Abdera, Abydos, Alexandria, Aetna, Antioch, Athens, Chios, Cyzicus, Corinth, Ephesus, Eretria, Gela, Catana, Kos, Maronia, Naxos, Pella, Pergamum, Rhegion, Salamis, Smyrni, Sparta, Syracuse, Tarsus, Thasos, Tenedos, Troy and more.
The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachm ("four drachmae") coin was perhaps the most widely used coin in the Greek world prior to the time of Alexander the Great (along with the Corinthian stater). It featured the helmeted profile bust of Athena on the obverse (front) and an owl on the reverse (back). In daily use they were called γλαῦκες glaukes (owls), hence the proverb Γλαῦκ’ Ἀθήναζε, 'an owl to Athens', referring to something that was in plentiful supply, like 'coals to Newcastle'. The reverse is featured on the national side of the modern Greek 1 euro coin.
Drachmae were minted on different weight standards at different Greek mints. The standard that came to be most commonly used was the Athenian or Attic one, which weighed a little over 4.3 grams.
After Alexander the Great's conquests, the name drachma was used in many of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the Middle East, including the Ptolemaic kingdom in Alexandria. The Arabic unit of currency known as dirham (in the Arabic language, درهم), known from pre-Islamic times and afterwards, inherited its name from the drachma or didrachm (δίδραχμον, 2 drachmae); the dirham is still the name of the official currencies of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The Armenian dram also derives its name from the drachma.
The drachma was reintroduced in May 1832, shortly before the establishment of the modern state of Greece (with the exception of the subdivision Taurus). It replaced the phoenix at par. The drachma was subdivided into 100 lepta.[n 7]
Uploaded: Sep 18, 2015