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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Coinage of the Achaian League

Sale: CNG 76, Lot: 540. Estimate $200. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 12 September 2007. 
Sold For $200. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ACHAIA, Achaian League. Aigiera. Circa 160-146 BC. AR Hemidrachm (2.31 g, 7h). Laureate head of Zeus Hamarios right / AX monogram; above, forepart of goat right; AL-KI across field; all within wreath. Clerk 16; BCD Peloponnesos 399; SNG Copenhagen -. VF, toned.

Ex BCD Collection (not in LHS sale).

The Achaian League was a confederation of twelve Greek city-states in Achaia, united by their participation in the cult of Zeus Hamarios at Aigion. The first mention of the League occurred in 453 BC, when they were listed as allies of the Athenians, and in 446 BC the League’s independence was stipulated under the terms of the Thirty Years Peace. During the Peloponnesian War, the Achaian League came under the influence of Sparta. During the third century BC, the League took advantage of the existing political vacuum following the collapse of the empire of Demetrios Poliorketes to expand its influence beyond its home territory. Re-establishing itself sometime between 281 and 280 BC, the League joined with the city of Sicyon, which provided the League’s first great leader, Aratos of Sicyon. Beginning with the introduction of his presidency in 245 BC, the Achaian League adopted a specifically anti-Macedonian expansionist program within the Peloponnese, by allowing the cities of Arcadia to become members. The inclusion of Megalopolis in 235 BC sparked hostilities with Sparta, which, under Kleomenes III, had begun to re-exert its control over the region. During the “Kleomonic War”, the Achaian League reversed its anti-Macedonian policy by accepting the assistance of Antigonos II Doson. For the moment, this change of policy helped the League further its goals. At the same time, tension grew between the League and Rome over who was to be the major influence in Greece. In 146 BC, the League erupted into open revolt against Rome. Known as the Achaean War, Lucius Mummius, the Roman general, defeated the Achaian League, dissolving it and, with his additional razing of the League’s capital, Corinth, effectively made all of Greece a Roman province.

Beginning in the fourth century BC, the Achaian League began issuing coinage. No central mint struck coinage for the League. Instead, the member cities issued a standard type in silver drachms and fractions with the laureate head of Zeus Hamarios on the obverse, and the League’s monogram, along with the local issuer’s mintmark, all within a laurel wreath on the reverse. While each city-state continued to strike its own bronze coins, these silver issues served to fulfill local transactions throughout the areas under the League’s control, so that from about 280 BC until the League’s dissolution in 146 BC, this federal coinage became the chief currency of the Peloponnese.