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‘Attic Standard Zone’, Eurozone And Georgia: Historical Comparative Analysis

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If you cross the state borders freely, seeing all the cargos moving without delay, money standard and the name being identical everywhere, that means you are in Eurozone. The reality has its remote pattern, Athenian (Attic) case with Colchis (Western Georgia) being involved. If Colchis was in “Attic standard zone”, why to deny Eurozone to Georgia? Below Athenian and modern European cases are discussed.

By Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani*

“If anyone mints silver coins in the cities and does not use Athenian coins or weights or measures, but foreign coins, weights and measures, I shall punish him and fine him according to the previous decree which Klearchos proposed” (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis. Oxford. 1969. Printed to the University 1971, p. 113; Chr. Howgego. Ancient History from Coins. London and New York. 1995, p. 44).  This is what a secretary of the Athenian Council (Boule) had to add to the Bouleatic oath from the famous Athenian decree enforcing to use the Athenian coins, weights and measures within the Athenian Alliance. The Athenian officials in the cities were responsible to carry out the decree, and the local officials too (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 113). The date of this decree is problematic, but still between 450 and 414 B.C. (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, pp. 114-115; C. G. Starr. Athenian Coinage. Oxford. 1970, p. 68 n. 15; Chr. Howgego. Ancient History from Coins, p. 44).The text was carved on stelai and set up at Athens and the other cities – members of the League. Seven fragments of this text have been already discovered in various places (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C. Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 111; “Athenian coinage decree”. J. M. Jones. A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins. London. First Published in 1986). There are several attempts to interpret the decree. One thing is clear – this decree is imperialistic in tone, and if some of the cities within the Athenian “Empire” were still supposed to issue own money, only Attic weight coins had to be used. Electrum staters remained popular (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 113). Later this decree is parodied in the “Birds” of Aristophanes (C. M. Kraay. Coins of Ancient Athens. Newcastle upon Tyne. 1968, p. 5).

The decree seems to be very comfortable for trade and taxation – indeed, Athenians were scrupulous while collecting taxes within the League.

The whole story about the Greeks shaping Europe has been already told. Macedonia contributed much as a recruitment area, but earlier Athens had been thought to be a leader. It was merely a frustration – indeed, if the best city had to be stripped from a population, nothing would be created at all. While the Greeks still in this mistake, Athenians made a good deal – seizing the markets and imposing taxes.

Athenians cared much for the Black Sea areas; and Pericles even launched a special expedition (Plut. Pericl. 20). Then the numismatic visage of Colchis (Western Georgia) was changed as Athenian tetradrachms came in sight together with the Attic ceramics (G. Doundoua, T. Doundoua. Les Relations Économiques de la Colchide aux Époques Archaïque et Classique d’après le Matériel Numismatique. La Mer Noire. Zone de Contacts. Actes du VIISymposium de Vani. Paris. 1999, p. 111 №23; Очерки истории Грузии. т. I. ред. Г. А. Ме­ли­киш­ви­ли, О. Д. Лордкипанидзе. Тбилиси. 1989, p. 228). Moreover, Milesian, Aeginetan and Persian standards used for the autonomous coin issues of Phasis (modern Photi, Western Georgia) now disappear and Attic standard becomes unique.

 Dioscurias (Modern Sokhumi, Western Georgia) was a splendid Greek city dominated by a mercantile oligarchy, a foundation of Miletus, sometimes – being troubled by the natives from the hinterland. Then it seems to be completely assimilated. History of Dioscurias is full of tremendous events and clashes. And the clashes were back again in the summer of 1993 as the civil war broke out in Abkhazia. Still one missile was especially lucky as it buried itself deep in the earth and showed a coin-shaped white metal. The description is as follows: weight – 300.37 gr. d=70 mm. Head of Athena wearing a crested helmet (the fashion is that of “old-style” coinage)/Owl. Obviously Athenian weight, it was offered for sale to Simon Janashia State Museum of Georgia.

The greatest number of the marked weights found in the Agora are small roughly square lead plaques. Sometimes these official weights are marked with the same symbols as the coins – head of Athena/owl (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby. Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Part I. Weights and Measures by M. Lang. Princeton. New Jersey. 1964, p. 6). Large circular stamp with helmeted head of Athena appears on the lead weight of the Roman time (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 31 pl. 9 LW (lead weight) 66).  Bronze weight too of some 69.9 gr. has an owl incised. This seems to be a coin weight, 1/6 of mina (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 26 pl. 1 BW (Bronze weight) 5). Even countermarks for the weights represent double-bodied owl and helmeted head (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 28 pl. 6 LW 26, p. 30, pl. 8 LW 46). The dry measure also has two stamps: the double-bodied owl and helmeted head of Athena (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, pl. 14 DM (dry measure) 44, 45; pl. 18 DM 44, 45).

The Athenian coin mina, consisting of 100 drachms, weighted approximately 436.6 gr. There was also another mina, used for weighting market produce, equal to 138 coin drachms, or 602 gr. (“Mina”, “Attic weight standard”. J. M. Jones. A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins).  

So, the piece from Dioscurias should be considered as Athenian trade-weight – half mina.

What conclusions are we to draw from all this?

1) Dioscurias had to receive or was glad to receive the official Athenian weights as the city became a subject of the Alliance.

2) And Phasis should have accepted even a coin mina and Attic standard too while already in the Alliance. Was there any legislation in favour of democracy; what does a maintenance of “Archaic smile” on the Athenian (“Old Style” coinage) and Phasian coins mean? We shall never know.

3) One thing is clear – Attic standard was installed in Colchis between 450 and 414 B.C. And the effect was similar to the modern introduction of euro across much of the European Union.

From Ancient Period to Modern Europe

Creating a common economic space was a recurring ambition throughout European history. The above-discussed “Attic standard zone” was one of the pertinent examples from Ancient history. From modern period the best example perhaps is the European Union (EU) which from the late 1960s aimed at coordinating economic and fiscal policies. It also included the establishment of a common monetary policy as well as the introduction of a common currency. The principal arguments in favor of its adoption were economic stability and unencumbered cross-border trade.

In 1979 the European Monetary System (EMS) was launched. Later on during the European Council session in Maastricht, 1991, the Treaty on European Union, which contained various provisions necessary for successful implementation of the monetary union, was agreed upon (https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/euro/history-and-purpose-euro_en).

Then came the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) which aimed at step-by-step economic integration of a number of countries. EMU was designed to support sustainable economic growth and a high level of employment. This specifically comprised three main fields: 1. implementing a monetary policy that pursues the main objective of price stability; 2. avoiding possible negative spillover effects due to unsustainable government finance, preventing the emergence of macroeconomic imbalances within Member States, and coordinating to a certain degree the economic policies of the Member States; 3. ensuring the smooth operation of the single market (https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/economic-and-monetary-union/what-economic-and-monetary-union-emu_en).

It was not however until 1999 that a common currency – the euro – appeared with 11 countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain – fixing their exchange rates and creating a new currency with monetary policy passed to the European Central Bank.

For the first three years euro did not exist as it essentially was an “invisible” currency. It was used mainly for accounting purposes. In 2002, however, first euro coins and banknotes were introduced in 12 EU countries thus ushering in, arguably, the biggest cash changeover in history. Nowadays, the euro is in circulation in 19 EU member states. There are a number of advantages attached to the use of the euro: low costs of financial transactions, easy travel, increased economic and political role of Europe on the international arena (https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/euro/which-countries-use-euro_en).

Parallel to the creation of the unified economic space ran the establishment institutionalized freedom of movement within most of the European states. The treaty came to be known as the Schengen Agreement signed on June 14, 1985, which led most of the European countries towards the abolishment of their national borders. The concept for free movement between the European countries is very old and it can be found through the Middle Ages (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/eu-countries/).

As was the case with the “Attic standard zone” modern Georgia aspires to become an economic part of Europe, its monetary system, unified currency – euro. Major steps have been made to this end since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The current EU-Georgia close relationship is based on the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. More importantly, the latter involves a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which came into force in mid-2016 and along with closer political ties aims to achieve deeper economic integration between Tbilisi and the EU (https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/georgia/).

Simultaneously with Georgia’s slow and steady economic integration into the EU economy, the country has also started to enjoy the benefits of institutionalized free movement of citizens across much of the European continent.

Thus there is a long history of Georgian economic and territorial integration into the European models of unified economic spaces. The above examples of the “Attic standard zone” as well as the modern European Union prove this point.

*Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani, Institute of Georgian History, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University


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Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani has worked for various international consulting companies and currently publishes articles focused on military and political developments across the former Soviet sphere.

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