Why is money represented with historical figures?



Formerly, the coins used to have the representative god of the country or area in which that currency was used.

It is believed that the first to mint coins with faces were the Greeks. One of the first coins that we can see faces on are the Athenian tetradrachmas. In this piece, from 410 BC, we can see on the obverse the profile of Athena, protective goddess of the city of Athens, while on the reverse appears the owl, the symbol of this goddess. Using deities on coins was another way to honor and pay tribute to the gods.

Some leaders took that honor until then reserved for the gods. It is believed that Tisaphernes, a Persian satrap from the 4th century BC. was the first president represented in a currency, and that Alexander the Great was the first personage portrayed in life in a currency. Later, in the Roman Empire, it became common to portray the profiles of the emperors in the golds and denarii as a symbol of power and greatness.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire minted a new coin, the solid. With him remained the tendency to portray the president of the moment on coins, something that remained in Europe throughout the Middle Ages to emphasize the power of monarchies. Here, a coin from León from the 12th century in which we can see Doña Urraca, the first woman represented on a coin in the history of Spain.

Although little by little coins were also minted with the banner of the rulers, pontiffs, the symbol of the city or region or even religious motives, the profile of the current ruler continued to be the most used model in European coins and banknotes until end of the Modern Age. Here, a French coin from the 18th century in which the monarch Louis XVI is depicted in great detail.

It was precisely in France, with the establishment of the French Republic in 1792, where numismatic pieces without monarchical symbols appear for the first time in Europe. That same year the assigned ones were issued, the first banknotes bearing the legend “French Republic” and the emblem “liberté, egalité” (the ‘fraternité’ would be added later). In the image, assigned banknote of 5 French pounds.

And this is just a bit of history in Europe, in another blog we will talk about other continents.


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