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Silver tetradrachm of Athens
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In 482 bc an enormous vein of silver was discovered at the Athenian silver mines in Laurium. After much debate, the silver was used to increase the Athenian navy. This improved Athenian fleet defeated the Achaemenid Persians at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, a victory that turned the course of the Persian War. The Greeks went on to win the war and secure mainland Greece from Persian invasion.

This tetradrachm (4-drachma piece) may have been minted during the period of the construction of the Athenian fleet, when a large number of coins was issued. The designs on both sides of the coin refer to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. On the obverse (front) of the coin is the head of Athena, and on the reverse is her sacred bird, the owl. These designs remained unchanged on Athenian coinage for over 300 years, and the ‘owls’ of Athens became familiar coins throughout the Greek world.

Silver tetradrachm of Athens

From Athens, Greece, 527-430 BC
Wt 16,71 g
Bequeathed by John Mavrogordato

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