Coin Content
Lesson plan based on Alexander Coin
Calculate ancient Greek coin values as compared to their weight, equivalence in grain, and determine their worth today.
Skills and Focus: Calculation
Subject Area: Mathematics
Thematic Connection: Money, Counting and Calculating, Connecting Past and Present
Grade Level: Secondary School
Time Needed: 60 minutes
Objectives
• Understand how to calculate fractions of a given weight.
• Use decimal numbers.
• Convert from metric to U.S. customary weight systems.
Instructional Materials Needed
chart
Online Resources:
• Demosthenes, Against Phormio 39:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgibin/text?lookup=dem.+34.39&word=grain
•Aristotle, Economics 1352b:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgibin/text?lookup=aristot.+econ.+1352b&vers
=english;loeb&browse=1
Activity
Step 1: Distribute the chart and work with students to calculate the missing values. Ask students to suggest the appropriate calculations.
Step 2: After calculating the value of the coins, relate their value to that of a silver dollar (1 oz.). Calculate how much the silver in these ancient Greek coins would be worth today (assuming the value of silver at $7.50/oz.).
Step 3: Look through the following passages together with the class in order to learn the prices in silver of ancient grain. Demosthenes, in Against Phormio 39, mentions the price of about 12 gallons of grain in Greece as being 5 drachmae. Aristotle, in Economics 1352b, mentions the price for the same amount of grain in Egypt as 10 drachmae. If grain weighs about 5 pounds to the gallon, was silver more or less valuable in ancient Athens then it is today? In ancient Egypt?
Step 4: We know that the rowers in the Athenian fleet of warships earned 2 obols a day. How much grain would that buy? How many obols per day would a rower spend on grain, assuming he ate 500g per day? How much money would be left over?
Goals
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 6: Demonstrate and apply a knowledge and sense of numbers, including basic arithmetic operations, number patterns, ratios, and proportions.
Find the Values of Ancient Greek Coins

Coin

Value

Weight

obol

1/6 drachma 

diobol

1/3 drachma 

drachma


4.1g 
didrachm

2 drachmae 

tetradrachm

4 drachmae 

© 2000, by The Art Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved. Use of this program is subject to the terms below. No part of this program may be reproduced, transmitted or distributed in any form or by any means, except for personal or classroom use. All Copyright in and to the program, in whole or in part, belongs to the publisher and its licensors and is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office 