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Precious Metal Turned Precious Heritage

Being an ancient land where kingdoms and rulers changed frequently over time, Macedonia is rich in archaeological findings. Among the most common findings along roads, in graveyards and house foundations are coins of ancient kings. Gold, silver and bronze coins date back to all the historical periods, from Antiquity through the Roman and Byzantine periods and Middle Ages to the Ottoman rule. The most popular and very often illicitly traded coins are drachmas and tetradrachms from the Hellenistic period when Macedonian, Thracian and Paionian kings ruled this territory. The word drachma means “a handful”, literally, “a grasp”. The first known coins were issued in Lydia in Asia Minor at some time before 600 BC, presumably for the army mercenaries who wanted to be paid in precious metal at the conclusion of their time of service. By the time of Alexander the Great the higher denomination tetradrachm was regularly used to make large payments. The king affirmed his rule over his country and its subjects by minting his own coins. Kings who ruled over Macedonia left their names and traces of their rule on the minted silver and bronze coins. Thus, the name Lycaeios denotes the son of the historically first documented Paeonian king, Agis. While Agis left no traces in silver, his son did. The coins usually carried the image of some deity or of the monarch himself. Among the gods Apollo and Zeus were the most popular ones. Tetradrachm showed Hercules strangling the Nemean lion on the reverse. The drachmas from the same period showed a lion or grazing bull. The coins of Patraios, Agis’s successor, had much greater variety of images including cantharus, bucranium, grapes, trident, wreath, lily, wild boar and eagle. These motives can give us much information on the history and culture of their time. Thus, the image of the wild boar was a frequent motif among the rulers. Wearing strings of boars’ teeth on the helmets was proof of warrior’s courage since the times of Crete and Mycenae because the usual test of bravery was the wild boar hunt.  Read more …