Last Coin-------------------Next Coin

Area: Attica: Athens
Period: 449 BC - 404 BC
Denomination: AR Tetradrachm
Obverse: Head of Athena facing right, wearing crested helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and floral scroll; her hair is drawn across the forehead in parallel curves with pearl necklace hanging from her earrings.
Reverse: Owl standing right, head facing in erect posture, the tail feathers represented as a single prong, olive twig and crescent above right, all in an incuse square. "AOE" ("ΑΘΕ")
Reference: SNG Copenhagen 40
Weight: 16.6 gms
Diameter: 23.3 mm


The city-state of Athens was founded in the mid-9th century BC. In 594 BC, Solon established a council (boule), a popular assembly (ekklesia), and law courts. He also encouraged trade and reformed the coinage.

In 492 BC, Darius I of Persia invaded Greece, but was defeated at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. His son, Xerxes tried again in 480 BC. After marching through Thrace, Thessaly, and Locris, he was delayed at Thermopylae by the Spartan king, Leonidas I, and his force who courageously defended the narrow pass for ten days. Xerxes then advanced into Attica and burned Athens, which had been abandoned by the Greeks. At the Battle of Salamis later that year, his fleet was defeated by a much smaller fleet of Greek warships commanded by the Athenian Themistocles. Thus Athens was saved.

Themistocles set about restorating the city, building defensive walls around both Athens. His work was continued by Pericles around 450 BC, when Athens reached it's apogee. As head of the Delian League of Greek city-states, Athens was held sway over the entire Aegean.

After its defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), the city began to decline, although philosophy and the arts flourished.

Athens lost its independence to Philip II of Macedonia in 338 BC. It was taken by Rome in 146 BC but maintained good relations with the Romans until they sacked it in 86 BC.

Back to main page