Silver tetradrachm of Eretria

Greek, around 525 BC
From Eretria, Euboea, Greece

Heads and tails: the beginning of coins with two sides

The large island of Euboea off the east coast of mainland Greece was an important force in Greek trade and colonisation overseas in the sixth century BC. It is thus no surprise to find several of her cities striking silver coin soon after the arrival of the idea of coinage in Greece in the sixth century BC.

One of the foremost of these cities was Eretria. By the end of the sixth century BC, the Eretrians had taken the important step of adding a second design to their coinage. The earliest coins only had an image on the obverse (the front side of the coin), which was struck using the lower, 'anvil' die. But now the opportunity was taken to place a design on the reverse as well, using a second die (the 'punch' die). Often on these early two sided coins, the legacy of the punch can still be seen in the square shape of the reverse die, as opposed to the round of the obverse. The obverse of this coin depicts a cow scratching herself, the reverse shows a squid.

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More information


G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)

C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek co (London, Methuen, 1976)


Weight: 13.100 g
Diameter: 34.000 mm

Museum number

CM 1842-10-17-7 (BMC Eretria 21)



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