The glories of ancient Athens are well known. From the ubiquitous photographs of the Parthenon high upon the Acropolis overlooking the city to the writings of Plato and Socrates, ancient Athens has permeated our modern lives. In fact, many foundations of our modern world have their roots in Athens, the birthplace of democracy and philosophy. Athens was a city of orators, whose convincing arguments would sway the voting populace, made up of male citizens, to change argument into policy. Perhaps Athens is so important because it gave a voice to the individual; that is, if you were qualified to speak. The transfer of power from the elite to the masses, a social phenomenon that first flourished in Athens, would revolutionize the governing structures of the world for the next two thousand years. In a way, we are all Athenians. Just looking at architecture of our nation’s capital proves the lasting impact this ancient city continues to have today.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of long forgotten empires. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. The helmeted head of Athena, warrior Goddess of wisdom, graces the obverse of this coin. She was the mythic protector of Athens and the source of the city’s name. Her attribute was the owl, depicted on the reverse of the coin, an animal also associated with wisdom, perhaps through its relation with the Goddess. This magnificent coin is a memorial to the ancient glories of Athens passed down from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.6186)