The Drachm: The First Coins

Room 10, showcase 17 Drachm of Emporion. Mid-3rd century BC. Silver. Pulse para ampliar Drachm of Emporion. Mid-3rd century BC. Silver.

Around 580–560 BC, Greek colonists from the Phocaean city of Massalia (Marseille, France) founded the town of Emporion (Sant Martí d'Empúries, Girona) in the Gulf of Roses. Some one hundred years later, they also produced the first coins minted on the Iberian Peninsula.

The coins of Emporion, a name that means emporium or trading place, are silver pieces in the purest Greek style, used to trade with other Mediterranean cities as well as for local commerce and dealings with Iberians from the northeast.

The thriving economy led to the production of drachms in the third century BC. Featuring the town's goddess surrounded by dolphins, the winged horse Pegasus and a Greek legend reading “of the people of Emporion”, the drachm became a benchmark in its area of influence, spreading the use of coins among nearby indigenous peoples, not accustomed to this form of money, and inspiring the first native issues.

It survived until the first century BC with only one curious modification that does not yet have an unanimously accepted explanation: in the late third century, the head of Pegasus became a small seated human figure with its arms extended to touch its feet.