The tetradrachm was an Ancient Greek silver coin equivalent to four drachmae. It replaced the earlier heraldic type of didrachms and it was in wide circulation from 510 to 38 BC. The transition from heraldic type of didrachms to tetradrachms minted by the polis of Athens occurs shortly after the Battle of Salamis, 480 BC. This transition is supported by the discovery of contemporary coin hoards, particularly on the coin hoard found on the Acropolis in 1886. The Athenian tetradrachm was widely used in transactions throughout the ancient Grecian world, including in cities politically unfriendly to Athens.
To differentiate their currency from the rival coinage of Aegina using the Aeginetic stater of about 12.3 grams, Athens minted its tetradrachm based on the “Attic” standard of 4.3 grams per drachma. The vast number of “owls-tetradrachms” available those days mainly from the silver mines of Laurium financed the several achievements of Athens, such as the reconstruction of the Acropolis and building the Parthenon, as well as many Wars, including the Peloponnesian War. The tetradrachm’s use as a currency was soon adopted by many other city-states of the ancient Greece, Asia Minor, Magna Grecia and other Greek colonial cities throughout the Mediterranean Sea. With the armies of Alexander the Great it spread to the Greek-influenced areas of present-day Iran and India.
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