Greek drachma

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Drachma, pl. drachmas or drachmae (δραχμή, pl. δραχμές or δραχμαί (until 1982)) was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:

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Ancient drachma

The name drachma[1] is derived from the verb "δράσσομαι" (drássomai, "to grasp").[2] Initially a drachma was a fistful (a "grasp") of six oboloi (metal sticks), which were used as a form of currency as early as 1100 BC. It was the standard unit of silver coinage at most ancient Greek and Roman 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 apparently dates at least to Herakleides of Pontos (387-312 BC) but the metrologist Livio C. Stecchini argued that drachma was instead a word of semitic origin. Stecchini was often out of the mainstream. His argument seems plausible (see www.metrum.org) but remains obscure.

The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachmon ("four drachma") coin was the most widely used coin in the Greek world prior to the time of Alexander the Great. 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 γλαῦκαι glaukai (owls), hence the phrase 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.

Drachmas 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.

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