Olbia dolphin: coin (proto-currency) of ancient Greek city


Olbia Cast AE Dolphin, 500-400 BC: Greek city-state Olbia

Olbia Cast AE Dolphin, 500-400 BC: Greek city-state Olbia

Pontic Olbia or Olbia (Ancient Greek "Ὀλβία Ποντική"; Ukrainian "Ольвія") — an ancient Greek city-state, founded by natives of Miletus in the 7th century BC (modern village of Parutyne on the shore of the Southern Buh, Ukraine).

It is from the Olbian dolphins that the use of bronze for the manufacture of coins probably began. After all, before their appearance in Asia Minor (the ancient state of Lydia), and a little later — in Greece, the first coins were made of electrum, gold and silver.

At first, so-called arrow proto-money were used in Olbia. However, rather quickly, the arrow-shaped form of coins was replaced by bronze dolphins. Both were used not only in monetary circulation, but also as temple offerings in honor of the god Apollo. Historians claim that the emission of Olbian dolphins was relatively short-lived — about 150 years (they were used a little longer). They were replaced by coins of Olbia of traditional shape — round asses, chalkons, staters...

The legend "АРІХ" (abbreviated form of "АРІХО"). — What the letter marks mean is unknown. We have to come across only assumptions, versions regarding the meaning... There are two following hypotheses: either it is the name of an unknown city of the Olbian polis, or even the name of a Scythian ruler (Greeks and Scythians coexisted in Olbia, which, in fact, was based on the Scythians lands).

  • Bronze: 30 mm - 2.51 g
  • Reference price: 10$

COIN OLBIA DOLPHIN — WHERE & WHEN (coins catalog: by names & emitents)
  1. OLBIA, ANCIENT GREECE (500-400 BC): olbia dolphin

About the name of the coin "Olbia dolphin": the Olbia dolphin is a bronze proto-coin of Olbia /an ancient Greek colony in the Dnipro and Southern Buh deltas: the territory of modern Ukraine/ in the shape of a small dolphin. It was made by the casting method in the 6th-4th centuries BC.
There is no doubt arises about the name of the Olbia dolphins: reflected shape of the coin and the geography of its origin. However, this is a modern name. Which one was in use 2500 years ago is unknown. There is evidence that the dolphins of Olbia were considered obols and multiples (for example, the smallest dolphin weighing up to 3 g is 1/25 of an obol). However, this assumption is not confirmed.