A Very Short History of the Ancient Greece
 and a broad classification of the Ancient Greek coins (595-168 BCE).

    The foundation of the European civilization was laid by Greek civilization (1600-168 BCE) which evolved with the influence of an earlier civilization of Minoans (3000-1200 BCE) from the island of Crete.  Minoan civilization  itself was influenced by  Egyptian civilization (3200-1200BCE).

    First wave of Greek speaking people migrated from the north to the Greek peninsula around 1900 BCE.  They developed a civilization centered around city of Mycenae in southern Greece. They were warring people yet developed the culture and sophistication, probably from the constant  contact with culturally & artistically sophisticated and peaceful Minoans as they traded with each other.

    Mycenaean civilization was plunged into the dark days (between 1200-800BCE) with the second wave of northern Greek speaking invaders / migrants, the Dorians.  Dorian invasions and population pressures on the mainland Greece led to the founding of colonies on the islands in Aegean sea,  Ionia (west coast of present day Turkey) and Magna Graecia ( southern Italy & Sicily ) . See the map below .

Greek settlements around 500 BCE

    Around 800 CE, Mycenaeans and Dorians started seeing themselves as one people, Achaeans - as Homer called his people  ( Greek came from 'Graeci' in Latin, as Romans called them ). This acceptance of single identity led to the less conflict (?),  revival of Greek city states and its civilization. By 600 BCE Greek city states were flourishing economically and culturally.

In Ionia,  Greeks immigrants came in contact with the Lydians and their technology of making coins. Aegina (595-456BCE), Athens (575 BCE) and Corinth (570 BCE) were the first Greek City States to produce coins..

    Ancient Greek coins can be broadly classified into three categories based on chronology.

1) Greek City states
 2) Greek Empire of Philip II & Alexander III
3) Hellenistic Kingdoms.

Greek City States (c. 800-338 BCE)
Greek word 'polis'  means city. In the ancient Greece, polis was both the city and the surrounding area. They were usually self-contained. Daily life was simple and pleasant except in the times of war. Most city state residents were peasants that cultivated fertile valleys and coastal areas. These cities were built  around an elevated and defensible area called 'Acropolis', the high city. The City States were run by different forms of governments ranging from tyrants (Sparta) to democracy (Athens) and in between.

City States of Greece, Ionia  and Magna Graecia started their economic and cultural revival  around 800 BCE. Except  for the brief periods of Persian invasion (490-479 BCE) and the Peloponnesian wars between city states of Athens & Sparta (431-404BCE), Greek City States flourished economically as well as culturally. They produced great works  in art, literature, philosophy, science  and medicine.  Since the City states were independent, the coins were minted with symbols uniquely representing their city. Some City States forged alliances with others and formed leagues. Common coinage was issued under the name of league. These coins were circulated in the City States under the league. Some of the most beautiful coins of the world were minted during this time by the Greek City States.

City States of Greece
City States of mainland Greece from Macedon to  Peloponnesos and the islands in Aegean sea are included in this section to keep the classification simple.

City States of Asia Minor
Greek City States of Asia Minor, islands off the west coast  of Asia Minor and Greek City States around Black sea are included in this section.

City States of Magna Graecia
Greek City States of southern Italy, Sicily and Gaul are included in this section.

Greek Empire (338- 323 BCE)
Macedonian King Philip II invaded and united most of the mainland greek city states into an empire in the year 338 BCE. His son Alexander III expanded it by invading Asia Minor, Persia and India. Philip II was the first to issue Greek gold coins and Alexander III issued largest number of coins in the antiquity surpassed only by Anglo-Saxon kings of England.

Philip II (382-336 BCE)
Also known as Philip of Macedon.

Alexander III (356-323 BCE)
Also known as "Alexander the Great"  in Europe and "Alexander the Curse" in Persia. Interestingly,  almost a 1000 years later  Genghis Khan  was known as "Genghis the great Khan" in Asia and "Genghis the great  curse'" in Europe.

Philip III Arrhidaeus (323 - 317 BCE)
Feeble minded son of Philip II and half brother of Alexander. He was installed on Macedonian throne after Alexander's death.

Hellenistic Kingdoms (323- 168 BCE)
Greeks at the time of Alexander called themselves as "Hellas",  descendents of people from the district Hellas in the Thessaly region of ancient Greece. After Alexander III's death in 323 BCE, his generals fought among themselves and carved up the empire into their own kingdoms. They came be known as Hellenistic Kingdoms.

    Asia Minor went to Antigonus, East Asia went to Seleukos I, Egypt went to Ptolamy Soter, Macedonia went to Cassander and Thrace went to Lysimachus. These Kingdoms later fractured into smaller kingdoms.







Media Atropatene


Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt



Seleukid Kingdom



Ancient Country List