The city of Akragas was one of the predominant cities of ancient Sicily. A typically Greek city, it was founded in 688 BCE by the Geloans in Sican territory in the southern part of the island settled by Dorians. They started minting coins in the 520s BCE–20 years later than the Ionian cities in the north of Sicily. Akragas appears to have followed the Corinthian weight standard based on the earliest staters (8.2 gram).
In 510 Akragas started to mint on the Attic standard first based on the Athenian didrachm, with teh rest of Sicily following suit eventually. Around 460 BCE, however, Akragas began to mint coins based on the Sicilian tetradrachm (e.g., the famous Syracusan issue). There is, however, a gap between these two phases when no coins were struck; the reason for this is unclear.
The Eagle and the Crab
There are two iconographic features on the coins from Akragas that are very characteristic for this type: an eagle on the obverse and a crab on the reverse.
The eagle refers to the chief Olympian god Zeus, to whom the city’s main cult was dedicated. The crab on the reserve refers probably to the river with the same name: Akragas. The iconography must have been highly recognizable for most in Sicily and perhaps beyond (though coins from Akragas are rarely found beyond Sicily).
Faith and Credit
Bronze coins from Akragas are part of what was then a completely new coin tradition. On Sicily they started minting small denominations in bronze, whose value was based solely on a fixed exchange rate in silver coins and not on their material value. Their value was therefore based on trust – the belief that one could change their bronze coins for silver coins. Akragas played a key role in this development.
It can therefore be concluded that the city’s late start with minting coins didn’t lead to a lack of innovation. Akragas created very recognizable types of coins and were “early adopters” of a new coin tradition.
Coins from Akragas on MA-Shops.com
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