Coin (obverse), Didrachm

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minted possibly at Metapontum

Postcard of Coin (obverse), Didrachm.
© National Museums Scotland

Coin (obverse), Didrachm

This silver didrachm of Rome was minted between 280 and 276 BC, possibly at Metapontum in southern Italy. It is one of the earliest attempts of minting coins by the Romans. This picture shows the obverse of the coin.

A didrachm had a value of two drachmai. The coin's weight averaged 4 grams or slightly above, with a diameter of about 16 millimeters. The drachm supposedly took its name from a handful (drax) of six iron spits (obeloi), which were formerly used as currency. This ratio of six obols to the drachm continued long after the invention of coinage. The word is probably derived from "drax" - Greek for as much as you could hold in a hand. The Romans also used drachmai but created a new system of coinage around about 211 BC.

The coin depicts Mars, the Roman god of war, with a beard and wearing a Corinthian helmet. An oak-sprig is behind him. The coin is fairly worn.

The earliest Roman silver coins were modelled on Greek types, in a denomination known as a didrachm. However, only during or after the Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC) did the Romans start an unbroken sequence of minting coins.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-065-433-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  H.C15001
Date: 280 - 276
Between 280 and 276 BC
Material: Silver; fairly worn. Inscription: Obv. Head of bearded Mars to left, wearing Corinthian helmet; oak-sprig behind / Rev. Horse's head to right on base; corn-ear behind; ROMAN [O] on base
Dimensions: 21.00 x 20.00 mm D / Die Axis: 4.0
What: Coin Type: Crawford 13/1
Coin, didrachm
Subject: Queen Street Coin Collection
Who: Mars
Where: Metapontum (?)
Roman Republic
Description: Silver didrachm of Rome, minted at Metapontum (?), 280 - 276 BC
  • Crawford, M.H. Roman Republican Coinage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. 
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