Attica, Athens - 'Inexhaustible Mines of Silver'

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Athens was one of the few Greek cities with significant silver deposits in their immediate territory, a remarkable stroke of fortune upon which Xenophon reflected: “The Divine Bounty has bestowed upon us inexhaustible mines of silver, and advantages which we enjoy above all our neighbouring cities, who never yet could discover one vein of silver ore in all their dominions.” The mines at Laurion had been worked since the bronze age, but it would be only later in 483 that a massive new vein of ore would be discovered that enabled Athens to finance grand new schemes such as the construction of a fleet of 200 triremes, a fleet that would later prove decisive in defending Greece at the Battle of Salamis.

This coin was produced in the period before the discovery of the new deposits at Laurion, around the time of the Ionian Revolt and the subsequent first Persian invasion of Greece. Athens aided the Ionian Greeks in their rebellion against Persian tyranny with both coin and soldiers, participating in the 498 BC march on Sardes which resulted in the capture and sack of that city – the only significant offensive action taken by the Ionians, who were pushed pack onto the defensive and eventually subjugated once more. Vowing to punish Athens for their support of the doomed rebellion, the Persian king Darius launched an invasion of Greece, landing at Marathon in 490 BC. Just twenty five miles from Athens, a vastly outnumbered Athenian hoplite army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Persians, who after suffering horrendous casualties turned to their ships and fled.

Attica, Athens AR Tetradrachm. Circa 500-490 BC. Archaic head of Athena right wearing crested helmet decorated with chevron and dot pattern / Owl standing right, head facing, olive sprig behind, ΑΘΕ before. Cf. Svoronos pl. 5, 38; cf. Asyut 268.

Very Fine. In unusually good condition for the issue, with a full crest. Very Rare.