Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


First Advisor

Hans-Friedrich Otto Mueller

Second Advisor

Lewis Davis

Third Advisor

Brad Lewis




Money, Early Money, Coinage, Coins, Greece, Lydia, Sparta, Monetary History


The spread of coins, which occurred throughout the archaic and classical periods of Greece, was a foundational advancement toward forms of the modern economy. Modern theory has sought to explain the invention of coins with a variety of narratives. Generally, these narratives fall into two broad categories: market-driven monetization or state-driven monetization. On the one hand, some theory argues that coins developed from reducing private transaction costs. On the other hand, some theorists argue that the state benefitted from reductions in administrative costs from the use of coins and therefore undertook the cost of minting them. This thesis problematizes these two models and shows that neither of these explanations is satisfactory for understanding early coins. In fact, these theories introduce biases because they were constructed from analysis of modern money systems. Coinage was likely driven by the religious sector of the ancient state rather than by practical benefit. Moreover, the state adopted early coins despite the increased transaction costs they would have caused. The political and social gain outweighed the economic cost of their minting. This reassessment allows for a framework from which we may understand early coinage.