Money in Ancient Greece
Before 600 B.C. there was no monetary system in Greece, so they utilized the barter system. This was a system of trading goods and /or services for other goods and/or services. By 500 B.C., each city-state began minting their own coin. A merchant usually only took coins from their own city. Visitors had to find a moneychanger to exchange their coins. Typically a 5 or 6 percent fee was charged to exchange foreign currency to the local currency.
Athens used a currency known as the drachma. Their currency was widely used because of the large trade network that they developed. Often an Athenian coin could be used in other Greek cities and not have to be exchanged for the local currency.
The Athenian monetary system was set up in the following way:
6 obols = 1 drachma
100 drachma = 1 mina
600 minae = 1 talent (or the equivalent of 57 pounds of silver)
A worker in Athens could earn about two drachmas a day. Sculptors and doctors were able to make up to six drachmas daily. An unskilled worker would make around half of a drachma for one day’s work.
The typical costs of goods in ancient Greece:
loaf of bread 1 obol
lamb 8 drachmas
gallon of olive oil 5 drachmas
shoes 8 to 12 drachmas
slaves 200 to 300 drachmas
houses 400 to 1000 drachmas