The coin shows a tortoise with an incuse square divided into five compartments on its reverse. An exceptionally well-preserved piece struck in very high relief.
It is usually stated on the authority of Ephorus, that Pheidon of Argos (7th century BC) established a mint in Aegina, the first city-state to issue coins in Europe. The coin is know as the Aeginetic stater. Therefore it is thought that the Aeginetans, within 30 or 40 years of the invention of coinage in Asia Minor by the Ionian Greeks or the Lydians (c. 630 BC), may have been the ones to introduce coinage to the Western world.
The silver issues of Aegina were one of the chief trading coinages of the 6th and 5th centuries BC, especially in the Peloponnesos, the Islands and in Central Greece where its weight standard was dominant. Exactly why turtles or tortoises appear on the coinage of Aegina is not clear: it was not a sacred animal. One suggestion is that early, pre-coinage silver ingots in use in the Aegean area were plano-convex in shape; and that on Aegina they were colloquially known as ‘turtles.’ Thus, when coins were introduced, using the turtle as a coin type was a reference to the older, pure-silver ingots that had previously been used in trade.
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, 17 miles from Athens. More about the history of Aegina…
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