By inclination I prefer to transliterate rather than anglicize ancient Greek names and words, but even I write Aeschylus and Thucydides, not Aiskhulos and Thoukudides. Here I have deviated from strict transliteration in various, not always consistent ways—a truly British compromise (or muddle): thus, for example, Cnossos, not Knossos (transliteration), nor Cnossus (Latin). But one outstanding exception had to be made—for Byzantion (the city); this in order to avoid confusion with anglicized, Latinate Byzantium (either a civilization or an epoch—during which ‘Byzantion’, as the city-name, ‘got the works’ in favour of ‘Konstantinoupolis’—Constantinople). Where I place a circumflex over the ‘e’ or ’o’ of a transliterated ancient Greek word, that is to indicate, especially in cases where transliteration might lead to misunderstanding, that the vowel was long—or ‘big’ as the Greeks said: omicron = (literally) small ‘o’, ômega = big ‘o’. Greek short ‘e’, epsilon, meant ‘light “e” ’; the long version was called ‘êta’.



6 obols = 1 drachma

2 drachmas = 1 statêr (literally ‘balance’)

100 drachmas = 1 mina (or mna) [the word is of Babylonian origin]

60 minas = 1 talent [also of Babylonian origin]

Note, first, that the value of coins—struck in electrum, gold, silver, or bronze, from the later seventh century on—was a function of their weight, and that different cities operated different weight-standards, often those established by another city. Second, although it is not possible straightforwardly to translate ancient weights/values into modern currency equivalents, it may be helpful to bear in mind that the average rate of daily pay for a skilled craftsman varied during the fifth and fourth centuries BCE between 1 and 2.5 drachmas, and that rough parity was established between a daily craftsman’s wage-rate and the pay given by democratic Athens to citizens for attendance at the Assembly between the 390s and 320s. The daily cost of living for a family of four in Athens at the end of the fifth century is estimated at between 2.5 and 6 obols. Third, small change—fractions of silver obols—was in use by the end of the sixth century, struck by mints including those of Colophon, Aegina, Mende, and Abdera; it could be offered as payment for pots, legal fines, or fees for initiation into a religious cult. Much less valuable bronze coinage was not struck in quantity until the end of the fifth century, by which time an issue of gold coinage by a Greek city signified emergency—in sharp contrast to the Persian empire, where it constituted business as usual, and a powerful diplomatic as well as commercial instrument.


1 stadion = 600 ‘feet’ or roughly 200 metres (in practice, normally rather less; e.g. at Olympia about 192 metres).

Again, note that different cities calculated the basic ‘foot’ differently.



You can support the site and the Armed Forces of Ukraine by following the link to Buy Me a Coffee.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!