Cattle were the prized commodity on which the Greek monetary system was based. The Greek islands of Cyprus and Crete during the 16th to 10th centuries B. C. were international trading ports where Assyrians, Mesopotamians, and Egyptians met to trade their goods.
With each territory having its own unique currency ( Egypt traded in gold, Greece in silver and copper), it was necessary to find a monetary common denominator on which to base trade. The value of an ox was universal in antiquity and became the basis on which all currency was evaluated. A 25.5g copper ingot, 8.5 grams of gold were of equal value to a whole ox. This association of monetary values with cattle is well illustrated by the appearance of copper and bronze tablets cut into the shape of ox hides. Coins eventually replaced bars and ingots as currency because they were easier to transport.
The Greek historian Herodotus informs us that the Lydians first invented coinage but it is also said that the Aegina people first made coins as well. Located south of Athens , Aegina is a small Greek island located in the Saronic Gulf , adjacent to the Peloponnese . It was first to strike coins in Greece . Aegina was a naval power and fought with Greece against the Persians. She later sided with Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian war, and her citizens were expelled from their island by the Athenians from 431-404 BC. The tortoise, which appears in various designs on all of Aegina ’s coinage, was the symbol of Aphrodite whose temple overlooked the great harbor of Aegina . It was also this temple which may have housed Aegina ’s first mint. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, can be identified with the Phoenician goddess Astarte, patron of the sea and of trade. The Phoenicians were a mighty sea-faring people who had in earlier tim es established a port at Aegina .