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The Staters of Leukas
Corinthian staters were one of the most important coin types in the ancient world, circulating in large quantities and crucial in facilitating trade with Italy and Sicily1. Let’s take a brief look at one of Corinth’s chief colonies, Leukas, and their coinage.
Leukas is a Greek island located in the region of Akarnania (Western Greece). Corinth colonised the city as well as many others (Corinth had roughly 25 colonies) by means of sailing, and it was among the first to issue coinage of the Corinthian type (more on that in a minute).
Here are 3 fun facts about the city:
According to legend, the poet Sappho committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs on this island after being rejected by her love, the boatman Phaon (Φάων).2
Originally part of mainland Greece’s peninsula, Leukas became an island in the 600s BC as settlers from Corinth built a canal.
Some believe the island to be the site of Homer’s Ithaca, given it fulfils the description of being an “island accessible by walking”.
View of Lefkada, Leukas’ capital3
Corinth was an extremely powerful city state. By 400 BC, it had a population of 90,0004 and was one of the most influential in all Greece. Most notable for its extreme wealth, 1,000 prostitutes (ἑταίρα) served Aphrodite's temple and the term "Corinthian" (meaning "a merry profligate man"5) is derived from the polis. Corinth's colonies numbered roughly 25, including even Syracuse!
“non licet omnibus adire Corinthum” (not all are able to go to Corinth) - Horace6
On the reverse of these pieces, you’ll find the head of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, wearing the distinctive and popular Corinthian helmet. She will often be accompanied by letters and all sorts of symbols7, as is apparent in the example below. The obverse of these coins features the Pegasos, Corinth’s symbol given its connection to the city state in myth. Staters from this mint, issued from the 5th century BC, are easily identifiable by the Lambda (Λ) struck below the Pegasos.
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ERWEH, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons
Dillon, Matthew; Garland, Lynda (2000). Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents from Archaic Times to the Death of Socrates (c. 800–399 B.C.). Psychology Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-0415217552.