The golden daric
Enabling Darius’ Persian empire
Darius the Great (550-486 B.C) of the First Persian Empire introduced the Achaemenid gold bullion coin which circulated alongside a similar sized silver coin, the siglos. The exchange rate was 1 Daric = 20 Siglos. Whilst historians disagree on the exact date the Achaemenid gold coins were struck, it has been narrowed down to a point in Darius’ reign between 522 and 486 B.C.
During this time the Persians conquered Lydia in 547 BC and it is was here they first came into contact with the idea of a coin based monetary system.
Electrum coins were the first recorded use of coins in Lydia, Asia Minor (640 BC). Coins were made from an amalgam of gold and silver known as electrum. These coins were later minted in pure metal and operated in the first recorded bimetallic standard between Lydia and Greece (550 B.C.).
After the Persian invasion, the Lydian coins were soon replaced by the new Achaemenid gold coins. The two coins were minted as a result of Darius the Great taking control of the Achaemenid political and tax system. The daric (gold bullion coin) weighed approximately 8.4g and had 95.83% purity. The siglo weighed between 5.40 – 5.6g each.
It is believed by many that the name Daric is derived from Darius, however it is instead taken from a Persian word meaning ‘gold’. The Daric bears the image of a warrior with a bow and arrow, it was known as the ‘archer’ in ancient times thanks to this image.
Parallels with the Daric gold standard and our own fiat system can be drawn in that production of any other gold coin pertaining to be money was seen as a crime. Punishable by death, the minting of a new coin was seen as illegal thanks to coinage being a royal privilege.
The Archaemenids’ bimetallic monetary standard was not the only significant monetary system in operation at the time; despite hoards found in Greece, Macedonia and Italy it barely operated outside of Asia Minor and suffered tough competition from the Attic tetradrachum (west Greek coin) which was gaining acceptance as an international trading currency.
Whilst the daric is referred to throughout a range of historical documents, namely the Old Testament, the coins were not in circulation in Persia itself. Salaries were paid in unminted silver whilst daric and siglos were largely used for commercial purposes such as trade with the Greeks across the borders. The Archaemenid gold coin was struck until Philip II of Macedonia began to mint gold and silver bullion coins from the metal mined from his newly ‘acquired’ mines on the north Aegean coast. Because of the fruitful supply of the precious metals the gold stater was minted at a price (10:1) which was able to undersell, and therefore usurp, the daric.
Daric coins remain rare thanks to Alexander the Great who melted them down to be re-coined into coins carrying his own image.