Athens Tetradrachm 449 - 413 BC

Obv: Head of Athena. Rev: Ow l - Greek letters AQE ΑΘΕ

Metal: Silver 16.5 grams, 24 mm diameter. Condition: EF attractive well centered specimen.

This is probably part of a large issue of coins after Athens appropriated 5000 talents from the treasury of the Delian League to pay for its massive building program and war expenses.

History Athens Golded Age

Legend is that the city of Athens was founded by "Theseus" after he defeated the Minotaur in Crete and returned with hostages from Attica. The Athenian aristocrats overthrew their tyrant rulers in 514 BC with the help of Sparta. A complete reorganization of the political system was made. In 500 BC, each of 10 newly formed tribes sent 50 representative each to the first Athenian ruling council assembly. Athens defeated Persia in 490 BC at Marathon. Most of the Greek cities felt that the Persian threat was over, however "Themistocles" knew better and he convinced the Athenians to build a fleet of 100 triemes (not against Persia), but the hated Aeginians. When Xerxes attacked, the fleet was ready and Athenians led the Greeks to a complete victory against Persia at Salamis. These victories are designated on the coins by the addition of a wreath of olives to the helmet of Athena. Again most of the Greeks wanted to be done with war, Athens took this opportunity to play martyr and said they would sacrifice their own men to defend the Greeks if the other cities paid the costs. The Greeks agreed to pay 460 talents of silver per year for Athens' defense and set up the Delian league with the league's treasury on the neutral island of Delos. In 478 BC, "Cimon" was elected general to push the Persians away from the Greek cities in Asia minor. He was very successful and defeated the Persian fleet at Aspendos at the battle of Eurymedon in 468 BC. A peace treaty with Persia was made that requried Persia not to come closer than one days overland travel towards any Greek coastal city and no Persian warship could sail west of Cyanean and the Chelidonian Islands. In 462 BC, the Athenians revolted against their government and chose the Tyrant Perikles. "Cimon" was against the revolt and was exiled for 10 years.

Perikles raised the fee from the other Greek cities to 600 talents per year and moved the treasury from Delos to Athens he than claimed free use of the money since Athens was meeting her obligation to protect the Greek cities from Persia, therefore he could use the money as he saw fit. The Athenians now turned their attention to maintaining control of the Greek cities. To their advantage was the only trained army and navy, as the other cities (except Sparta) had disbanded their militaries. This is the golden age under "Perikles", as he used the finances to support his grand building program putting everyone to work and sending groups of colonist all over Greece. This tyrany of the other Greeks led to the Peloponnessian war 431-404 BC that drained Athens of her wealth. Attica was besieged by Sparta and ravenged by plague in 430 BC. Perikles died in 429 BC of plague. Due to the war, Athens raised the tribute to 1300 talents per year. After initial military successes, the war turned against Athens with her first major loss in 413 BC at Syracuse in Sicily. After the loss at Syracuse, Athens regrouped but lost a sea battle in 406 BC against Lysander of Sparta. Finally Athens' fleet was defeated by Lysander in 404 BC with the capture of 200 ships. The city of Athens fell to Sparta in September 404 BC.