The Ancient Greek(Athenian) Drachma Compared to the US Greenbacks...et al. Tadit Anderson
The Ancient Greek Drachma compared to the US Greenbacks, and Present Day US Dollars et al. ( will expand on this in the days ahead,Tadit)
I stumbled onto an article comparing the archaic Athenian Drachma to the US Civil War Greenbacks. It is a very useful comparison actually. The amount of silver in the Drachmas was closely regulated by special administrative slaves stationed at the two ports for Athens and in the agora, to check the purity and weight of those coins, to seize counterfeit versions, and to arrest people who were intentionally circulating counterfeit coins. I expect that they serrved the functon of money changes. In effect they were also money changers working for Athens as a city-state.This made them essentially bankers. In this epoch the affairs of the state religion and temples were also administrated by the "state." While the actual Greenbacks had no intrinsic value, because of the large amount of silver produced by the Laurion silver mines which were owned by Athens as the city state, they could mint coins/currency pretty much as and when they wanted.
This was also at a time when local communities ad city states were transitioning between tribute and barter economics to smaller denomination coins which made retail trade accessible for ordinary citizens. This was an economic revolution in itself. Because of the lack of availability of regulated/controlled weights, denominations, and graded currencies elsewhere at that time. This factor alone made Athens's ports highly preferred by merchants. The city state of Lydia is favored to be the first place for the issuance precious metal chartal tokens, aka coins. There is possibly another place of origination further east the Vedic/Harappan Culture in the Sarasvati River basin but to my knowledge it hasn't appeared in the economic history literature that I've read. Though the Myceneans and Dorians, tended to be more xeno-phobic, than the Ionians. Further, it can also established that Pythagoras and Parmenides had had contact with the Vedic culture to the east and south of the Persian Empire.
The development of authentic demos based shaping of a communal critique and level of social functionality. The Reforms of Solon the Great for the Athenian constitution and culture were in response to perceived social deficits and reductions. Part of the context is that the Greek Dark Ages, circa 1,200 BCE to 800 BCE). The archeology for the region demonstrates numerous manors which had been demolished in that period. The range of explanations is from the down wind literal darkening due to major volcanic activity in Iceland, and or to the collapse of the "gift/tribute" economics that characterized the Myceanean culture or the Doric invasions.
I have to credit Leslie Kurke's Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold foremost, as well as her essay "Money and Mythic History: The Contestaton of Transactional Orders in the Fifth Century BCE," published in a collection of articles related to the field of archeo-economics under the title of The Ancient Economy edited by Scheidel and von Reden, C 2002.
In effect the wide circulation of the Athenian Drachmas established a much larger trading/economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean. Further, coins minted elsewhere as close copies of the Drachmas were allowed.The Ancient Greek Drachma compared to the US Greenbacks, and Present Day US Dollars et al.d to continue in circulation. This was very much like the Euro presently or like countries pegging their currencies to the US Dollar or Euro. It is one reason that Athens dominated the region economically in western archaic and classical times. Also gold and silver were being mined it was is now Spain from about 800 BCE forward. Having the additional precious metals in circulation also made it possible to support local industry on a larger scale than what was possible before.
The mercenary soldiers who were also particularly active in this era/epoch(cf Xenophon's "Anabasis"/aka The Ten Thousand or Up Country), for which the token/chartal currency made it feasible that these soldiers could be paid in precious coins and then transport themselves and earnings back to their home communities.
The coins of the Roman Republic were often worth in exchange, far more than their the monetary value stamped upon them, the aes signatum and the aes gave, which made literal chartal ("token") coins which on a continuum makes them more of chartal money, than the Athenian Silver Drachmas.
The 1860 etc US Greenbacks were purely a token currency requiring minting and printing. Since 1971 the US Dollar has been off the gold standard, and then nominally on an oil standard by an agreement between the US and OPEC that petroleum would be sold in US Dollars only. effectively and OIl standard. Otherwise US and several countries have sovereign fiat currencies which are key stroke produced currency units.