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Image of Ancient Greek Silver Coin (Dekadrachm), about 400 B.C.E.
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Materials: Silver
Measurement: Dia. 34.3 mm, Wt. 42.433 g
Source: Unknown

Ancient Greek Silver Coin (Dekadrachm), about 400 B.C.E.

Among the most alluring coins of antiquity was the Syracuse dekadrachm. Its artistry (designed by Kimon and Euinatos, among others) and incredibly high relief have captivated coin lovers for two and a half millennia. How did the Greeks, who worked only by hand, achieve such levels of beauty?

One of those attracted by coins such as this was a dynamic American president, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s record as a political reformer is well known. What is less recognized is his role in reforming American money. When the President compared contemporary American coins to Classical masterpieces such as this dekadrachm, he became indignant. Why, he wondered, did the powerful, young nation he was leading tolerate its pedestrian gold and silver coinage? Why couldn’t American money be more artistic? Why couldn’t it be as beautiful as ancient coinage? Why couldn’t it feature dramatic relief, so that every facet of its design was clear for all to see? Roosevelt acted on his thought by enlisting sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design what many regard as the most beautiful American coin ever produced, the 1907 twenty-dollar gold piece.
Related Events
480 BCE: Syracuse defeats Carthage at the battle of Himera, securing Syracusan dominance of Sicily.
430 BCE: The Peloponnesian War begins between Athens and Sparta.
406 BCE: Dionysius I becomes Tyrant of Syracuse.
390 BCE: Gauls from northern Italy capture and sack Rome.
323 BCE: Alexander the Great dies.
Legendary Beauties The following objects are in this section.
Ancient Greek Silver Coin (Dekadrachm), about 400 B.C.E.United States, 20 Dollars, 1906 (Pattern)United States 10 Dollars, 1907 (Pattern)
Roosevelt Inaugural Medal, 1905United States, 20 Dollars, 1907United States, 10 Dollars, 1908
United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 (Pattern)United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 
United States, 20 Dollars, 1907 (Experimental)United States. 20 Dollars, 1908 (Matte Proof) 
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Learning Resources Flash Exhibition
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