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Kingdom of Lydia - First Coinage

Kingdom of Lydia Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Social Studies World History Geography

In ancient times, Lydia was a place where gold was claimed to flow in the river Pactolus. Today, the area once occupied by Lydia is located in western Turkey (once also known as Asia Minor).

The capital of this ancient place was Sardis (Sardes)—known today as Sart, Turkey—a town not far from Ephesus (where the Temple of Artemis was once a wonder of the ancient world).

Why should we care about Lydia today? Because something happened in that ancient country (around the 7th or 6th centuries BC) which would ultimately make a big impact on the world (including today’s world). Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, tells us that Lydia is the place where people first minted coins:

They were the first men whom we know who coined and used gold and silver currency; and they were the first to sell by retail. (See Herodotus I, 94.)

We don’t really know for sure whether the Lydian government invented coinage (or if its businessmen were the first to use coins as a method of payment)—but—we do know that some of their ancient coins survive.

One of the biggest hoards of ancient coinage surfaced at Ephesus while archaeologists were working at the Temple of Artemis. Those made-in-Lydia coins, which someone had buried in the temple’s foundations around 600 BC, are now in the British Museum.

What did people in Lydia use to make their coins? They used electrum, an alloy of silver and gold. (Now you know where the word "electrum" originated in the context of bitcoins.)

One could make the argument—as some scholars have—that “money,” as a concept of measuring the value of all things, first surfaced when coinage was invented. If that’s true, people today owe a debt of gratitude to the long-forgotten people of Lydia.

The image, at the top of this page, depicts where the Kingdom of Lydia was once located.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 28, 2017

Updated Last Revision: Aug 28, 2017


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the holylandphotos.org website.

 

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