Famous Coin Replica Series – The Coin That Built the Parthenon

During the fifth century B.C. the ciity-state of Athens was a leader of the ancient world. In 480 B.C. the existing temple of Athena was destroyed by the Persians. Athens appropriated 5,000 silver talents from Delian League to finance building projects including the rebuilding of the Athenean temple on the Acropolis. In 447 BC Pericles started construction of the new temple, the Parthenon. Dedicated to Athena, its name most likely comes from a statue of Athena Parthenos, housed in the temple. Surrounded by a colonnade, the main room contained the statue of Athena adorned with smaller statues depicting Athena’ life.

The marble Parthenon is an example of Doric design and Ionic architectural features. The dimensions of the base of the building are 228 feet long and 101.4 feet wide. The exterior columns are 6.2 feet in diameter and 34.1 feet high. The Parthenon cost 469 silver talents to build. Translated into 2010 prices, one talent of silver is equal to 82.25 pounds or 1199.479 troy ounces. With spot silver at $17.36 USD, one silver talent is worth $20,822.9554 USD. Therefore, the Parthenon cost $9,765,966.08 = (469 talents x $20,822.9554).

Athens produced an enormous issue of one particular silver coin to finance construction of the Parthenon. A large 42 gram silver deckadrachm was struck. The obverse of the deckadrachm shows the the head of Athena facing left wearing a crested helmet with two olive leaves and a floral scroll. (Athena was the patron goddess of Athens.) The reverse shows an owl standing facing, wings spread with an olive twig in upper left; word ‘Athens’ on lower right.; all the obverse is within an incuse square. The owl also represents the city-state of Athens. The Deckadrachm was issued from 467 to 465 B.C. (Sear 2516.) Today, less than as than thirty original deckadrachms exist. Ten are owned by museums and private collectors. The Turkish government owns 20 of these deckadrachms.

Although this famous coin is very rare, legal reproductions of the Athenean deckadrachm are available. These reproductions are either struck from pure silver or cast in lead-free pewter copies.. In accordance with the Hobby Protection Act of 1973, the word COPY is struck on the obverse of these legal reproductions. Today the deckadrachm and the Parthenon remain the finest examples of Greek art and architecture in the ancient world.



Source by Warren D. Smith