The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece

David M. Schaps
Reveals how the concept of money did not materialize until the invention of Greek coinage


The invention of coinage was a conceptual revolution, not a technological one. Only with the invention of Greek coinage does the concept "money" clearly materialize in history. Coinage appeared at a moment when it fulfilled an essential need in Greek society, bringing with it rationalization and social leveling in some respects, while simultaneously producing new illusions, paradoxes, and elites.

In an argument of interest to scholars of ancient history and archaeology as well as to modern economists, David M. Schaps addresses a range of issues pertaining to major shifts in ancient economies, including money, exchange, and economic organization in the Near East and Greece before the introduction of coinage; the invention of coinage and the reasons for its adoption; and the development of using money to generate greater wealth.

David M. Schaps is Professor of Classics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book is a magisterial and pioneering treatment of a subject of seminal importance. Schaps's erudition is impressive—but leavened by a pleasant style and tone. In my opinion, the volume will generate interest among a wide audience, and should stimulate (and expedite) further research among specialists."
    —Edward Cohen, University of Pennsylvania
  • "Schaps provides intriguing food for thought for both ancient historians and modern economists. He argues that money existed before coinage, but that the invention of coinage reduced the costs of transactions enough to revolutionize life in ancient times, making monetization in ancient Greek society a crucial turning point in world history."
    —Peter Temin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • "In this absorbing book David Schaps demonstrates that the Greeks were the first people in history to make widespread use of coinage, and so to have the concept of money, and that this relatively unappreciated fact is vital for understanding Greek society of the archaic and classical periods. This long overdue case is made by David Schaps with enormous intelligence and charm."
    —Richard Seaford, University of Exeter
  • Winner of the 2010 Arie Kindler prize, awarded by the Israel Numismatic Society, Tel-Aviv Branch

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Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted May 2004.

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Product Details

  • 312 pages.
  • 13 B&W photographs.
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  • 2010
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  • 978-0-472-02533-6

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