Drachma

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Greek 1000 drachma note with Alexander the Great

Drachma, pl. Drachmas or Drachmae (δραχμή, pl. δραχμές or Δραχμαί) is the name of both:

  1. An ancient currency unit found in many Greek city states and successor states, and in many middle-eastern kingdoms of the Hellenistic era.
  2. A modern Greek currency, introduced in 1832, and replaced by the euro in 2001 (at the rate of 340.750 drachma to the euro). Euro currency did not begin circulating until 2002, but the exchange rate was fixed in 2001.

Ancient Drachma

The name Drachma is derived from the verb "δράττω" (dratto, to grasp). Initially a drachma was a fistful (a "grasp") of 6 oboloi, sticks of metal used as currency as early as 1100BC.


The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachm ("four drachmae") coin was the most widely used coin in the Greek world prior to Alexander the Great. It featured the helmeted profile bust of Athena on the obverse (front) and an owl on the reverse (back). In daily use they were called γλαύκαι glaukai (owls), hence the phrase Γλαύκ’ Αθήναζε . The reverse is featured on the national side of the Greek 1 euro coin, see Greek euro coins.

After Alexander the Great's conquests, the name Drachma was used in many of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the Middle East, including the Ptolemaic kingdom in Alexandria. The Arabic unit of currency known as dirham (in the Arabic language, درهم), known from pre-Islamic times and afterwards, inherited its name from the drachma; the dirham is still the name of the official currencies of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The Armenian dram also derives its name from the drachma.

The drachma was also used in Ancient Rome in the 3rd century BC. It is difficult to give even comparative values for money from before the 20th century, due to vastly differing products, but in the 5th century BC a drachma had an estimated value of 25 1990 dollars. Classical historians regularly say that in the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire, the daily wage for a laborer was one Drachma.

Modern Drachma

The drachma was reborn in 1832, soon after the establishment of the modern state of Greece. It replaced the phoenix at par. In 1868 Greece joined the Latin Monetary Union and the drachma became equal in weight and value to the French franc. During the German occupation of Greece (1941-1944), catastrophic hyperinflation and Nazi looting of the Greek treasury made the drachma practically worthless; in 1944, old drachmae were exchanged for new ones at the ratio of 50,000,000,000 to 1. The new currency was soon devaluated again; in 1953, in an effort to halt the slide, Greece joined the Bretton Woods system. In 1954 notes were again exchanged for new ones, at a ratio of 1,000 to 1; the new notes were pegged at 30 drachmae = 1 US dollar.

In 1973, the Bretton Woods System was abolished; over the next 25 years the official exchange rate gradually declined, reaching 400 GRD = 1 USD.

Greece joined the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, on January 1, 2001, and exactly one year later, the drachma was officially replaced by the Euro at a rate of 340.75 drachmas to the Euro. The coins continued to be exchangeable into Euros until March 1, 2004. The banknotes will continue to be exchangeable until March 1, 2012.


Coins in circulation at the time of the adoption of the Euro [1]

  • 50 Lepta (.147 Eurocents)1
  • 1 Drachma (.293 Eurocents)1
  • 2 Drachmae (.587 Eurocents)1
  • 5 Drachmae (1.47 Eurocents)1
  • 10 Drachmae (2.93 Eurocents)
  • 20 Drachmae (5.87 Eurocents)
  • 50 Drachmae (14.67 Eurocents)
  • 100 Drachmae (29.35 Eurocents)
  • 500 Drachmae (1.47 Euros)

1 Minted, but rarely used. Usually, prices were rounded up to the next multiple of 10 drachmas.

Banknotes in circulation at the time of the adoption of the Euro [2]

  • 100 drachmae (29.35 Eurocents)
  • 200 drachmae (58.69 Eurocents)
  • 500 drachmae (1.47 Euros)
  • 1000 drachmae (2.93 Euros)
  • 5000 drachmae (14.67 Euros)
  • 10,000 drachmae (29.35 Euros)

Historic currency divisions

6 obols = 1 drachma
100 drachmae = 1 mina (or mna)
60 minae = 1 Athenian Talent (Athenian standard)

Minae and talents were never actually minted: they represented weight measures used for commodities (e.g. grain) as well as metals like silver or gold

Modern currency divisions

100 lepta = 1 drachma

External links


Preceded by:
Greek phoenix
Greek currency
1832-2002
Succeeded by:
euro


A portion of content for this article is credited to Wikipedia. Content under GNU Free Documentation License(GFDL)