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"Drachma" redirects here. For the moth genus, see Drachma (moth).

Ελληνική Δραχμή (Greek)
ISO 4217 code GRD
Central bank Bank of Greece
User(s) None, previously:
Inflation 3.1% (2000)
 Source ERM
 Since March 1998
 Fixed rate since 19 June 2000
 Replaced by €, non cash 1 January 2001
 Replaced by €, cash 1 January 2002
= 340.750 Δρ.
 1/100 leptοn
Symbol Δρχ., Δρ. or ₯
 Freq. used 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 Δρ.
 Rarely used 10c, 20c, 50c, 1 and 2 Δρ.
 Freq. used 100, 200, 1000, 5000, 10,000 Δρ.
 Rarely used 50, 500 Δρ.
Printer Bank of Greece
Mint Bank of Greece
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.

Drachma, pl. drachmae or drachmas (δραχμή, Greek pronunciation: [ðraxˈmi], pl. δραχμαί or δραχμές) was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:

  1. An ancient Greek currency unit issued by many Greek city states during a period of ten centuries, from the Archaic period throughout the Classical period, the Hellenistic period up to the Roman period under Greek Imperial Coinage.
  2. Three modern Greek currencies, the first introduced in 1832 and the last replaced by the euro in 2001 (at the rate of 340.750 drachma to the euro). The euro did not begin circulating until 2002 but the exchange rate was fixed on 19 June 2000, with legal introduction of the euro taking place in January 2002.

It was also a small weight unit.[1]

Ancient drachma

The name drachma[3] is derived from the verb δράσσομαι (drássomai, "to grasp").[4] It is believed that the same word with the meaning of "handful" or "handle" is found in Linear B tablets of the Mycenean Pylos.[5] Initially a drachma was a fistful (a "grasp") of six oboloí or obeloí (metal sticks, literally "spits") used as a form of currency as early as 1100 BC and being literally a form of "bullion": bronze, copper, or iron ingots denominated by weight. A hoard of over 150 rod-shaped obeloi were uncovered at Heraion of Argos in Peloponnese. Six of them are displayed at the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

It was the standard unit of silver coinage at most ancient Greek mints, and the name 'obol' was used to describe a coin that was one-sixth of a drachma. The notion that "drachma" derived from the word for fistful was recorded by Herakleides of Pontos (387-312 BC) who was informed by the priests of Heraion that Pheidon, king of Argos, dedicated rod-shaped obeloi to Heraion. Similar information about Pheidon's obeloi was also recorded at the Parian Chronicle.

Ancient Greek coins normally had distinctive names in daily use. The Athenian tetradrachm was called owl,[6] the Aeginetic stater was called chelone, the Corinthian stater was called hippos (horse) an so on. Each city would mint its own and have them stamped with recognizable symbols of the city, known as badge in numismatics, along with suitable inscriptions, and they would often be referred to either by the name of the city or of the image depicted. The exact exchange value of each was determined by the quantity and quality of the metal, which reflected on the reputation of each mint.

Among the Greek cities that used the drachma were: Abdera, Abydos, Alexandria, Aetna, Antioch, Athens, Chios, Cyzicus, Corinth, Ephesus, Eretria, Gela, Catana, Kos, Maronia, Naxos, Pella, Pergamum, Rhegion, Salamis, Smyrni, Sparta, Syracuse, Tarsus, Thasos, Tenedos, Troy and more.

The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachm ("four drachmae") coin was perhaps the most widely used coin in the Greek world prior to the time of Alexander the Great (along with the Corinthian stater). 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 γλαῦκες glaukes (owls),[7] hence the proverb Γλαῦκ’ Ἀθήναζε, 'an owl to Athens', referring to something that was in plentiful supply, like 'coals to Newcastle'. The reverse is featured on the national side of the modern Greek 1 euro coin.

Drachmae were minted on different weight standards at different Greek mints. The standard that came to be most commonly used was the Athenian or Attic one, which weighed a little over 4.3 grams.

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 or didrachm (δίδραχμον, 2 drachmae); 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.


It is difficult to estimate comparative exchange rates with modern currency because the range of products produced by economies of centuries gone by were different from today, which makes purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations very difficult; however, some historians and economists have estimated that in the 5th century BC a drachma had a rough value of 25 U.S. dollars (in the year 1990 - equivalent to 41 USD in 2009[8]), whereas classical historians regularly say that in the heyday of ancient Greece (the fifth and fourth centuries) the daily wage for a skilled worker or a hoplite[9] was one drachma, and for a heliast (juror) half a drachma since 425 BC.[10]

Modern commentators derived from Xenophon[11] that half a drachma per day (360 days per year) would provide "a comfortable subsistence" for "the poor citizens" (for the head of a household in 355 BC). Earlier in 422 BC, we also see in Aristophanes (Wasps, line 300-302) that the daily half-drachma of a juror is just enough for the daily subsistence of a family of three.

A modern person might think of one drachma as the rough equivalent of a skilled worker's daily pay in the place where they live, which could be as low as $1 USD, or as high as $100 USD, depending on the country.

Fractions and multiples of the drachma were minted by many states, most notably in Ptolemaic Egypt, which minted large coins in gold, silver and bronze.

Notable Ptolemaic coins included the gold pentadrachm and octadrachm, and silver tetradrachm, decadrachm and pentakaidecadrachm. This was especially noteworthy as it would not be until the introduction of the Guldengroschen in 1486 that coins of substantial size (particularly in silver) would be minted in significant quantities.

For the Roman successors of the drachma, see Roman provincial coins.

Denominations of Ancient Greek drachma

The weight of the silver drachma was approximately 4.3 grams,[12] although weights varied significantly from one city-state to another. It was divided into six obols of 0.72 grams, which were subdivided into four tetartemorions of 0.18 grams, one of the smallest coins ever struck, approximately 5 - 7mm in diameter.[13]

Denominations of silver drachma
Image Denomination Value Weight
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Dekadrachm 10 drachmas 43 grams
Tetradrachm 4 drachmas 17.2 grams
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Didrachm 2 drachmas 8.6 grams
Drachma 6 obols 4.3 grams
Error creating thumbnail: File seems to be missing:
Tetrobol 4 obols 2.85 grams
Triobol (hemidrachm) 3 obols 2.15 grams
Diobol 2 obols 1.43 grams
Obol 4 tetartemorions 0.72 grams
Tritartemorion 3 tetartemorions 0.54 grams
Hemiobol 2 tetartemorions 0.36 grams
Trihemitartemorion 3/2 tetartemorions 0.27 grams
Error creating thumbnail: File seems to be missing:
Tetartemorion 0.18 grams
Error creating thumbnail: File seems to be missing:
Hemitartemorion ½ tetartemorion 0.09 grams

Historic currency divisions

8 chalkoi = 1 obolus
6 oboloi = 1 drachma
70 drachmae = 1 mina (or mna), later 100 drachmae = 1 mina[14]
60 minae = 1 Athenian Talent (Athenian standard)[15]

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. The New Testament mentions both didrachma and, by implication, tetradrachma in context of the Temple tax.

Modern drachma

First modern drachma

The drachma was reintroduced in May 1832, soon before the establishment of the modern state of Greece (with the exception of the subdivision Taurus).[16] It replaced the phoenix at par. The drachma was subdivided into 100 lepta (λεπτά, singular lepton, λεπτόν).


Main article: Coins of the Greek drachma

The first coinage consisted of copper denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10 lepta, silver denominations of ¼, ½, 1 and 5 drachmae and a gold coin of 20 drachmae. The drachma coin weighed 4.5 g and contained 90% silver, with the 20-drachma coin containing 5.8 g of gold.

In 1868, Greece joined the Latin Monetary Union and the drachma became equal in weight and value to the French franc. The new coinage issued consisted of copper coins of 1, 2, 5 and 10 lepta, with the 5- and 10-lepta coins bearing the names obolos (οβολός) and diobolon (διώβολον), respectively; silver coins of 20 and 50 lepta, 1, 2 and 5 drachmae and gold coins of 5, 10 and 20 drachmae. (Very small numbers of 50- and 100-drachma coins in gold were also issued.)

In 1894, cupro-nickel 5-, 10- and 20-lepta coins were introduced. No 1-lepton or 2-lepta coin had been issued since the late 1870s. Silver coins of 1 and 2 drachmae were last issued in 1911, and no coins were issued between 1912 and 1922, during which time the Latin Monetary Union collapsed due to World War I.

Between 1926 and 1930, a new coinage was introduced for the new Hellenic Republic, consisting of cupro-nickel coins in denominations of 20 lepta, 50 lepta, 1 drachma, and 2 drachmae; nickel coins of 5 drachmae; and silver coins of 10 and 20 drachmae. These were the last coins issued for the first modern drachma, and none were issued for the second.


Notes were issued by the National Bank of Greece from 1841 until 1928, when the Bank of Greece was created. Early denominations ranged from 10 to 500 drachmae. Smaller denominations (1, 2, 3 and 5 drachmae) were issued from 1885, with the first 5-drachma notes being made by cutting 10-drachma notes in half. Between 1917 and 1920, the Greek government issued paper money in denominations of 10 lepta, 50 lepta, 1 drachma, 2 drachmae, and 5 drachmae. The National Bank of Greece introduced 1000-drachma notes in 1901, and the Bank of Greece introduced 5000-drachma notes in 1928. The Greek government again issued notes between 1940 and 1944, in denominations ranging from 50 lepta to 20 drachmae.

During the German-Italian occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944, catastrophic hyperinflation and Nazi looting of the Greek treasury caused much higher denominations to be issued, culminating in 100,000,000,000-drachma notes in 1944.

Second modern drachma

In November 1944, after Greece was liberated from Germany, old drachmae were exchanged for new ones at the rate of 50,000,000,000 to 1. Only paper money was issued. The government issued notes of 1, 5, 10 and 20 drachmae, with the Bank of Greece issuing 50-, 100-, 500-, 1000-, 5000-, and 10,000-drachma notes. This drachma also suffered from high inflation. The government later issued 100-, 500-, and 1000-drachma notes, and the Bank of Greece issued 20,000-and 50,000-drachma notes.

Third modern drachma

In 1953, in an effort to halt inflation, Greece joined the Bretton Woods system. In 1954, the drachma was revalued at a rate of 1000 to 1. The new currency was pegged at 30 drachmae = 1 United States dollar. In 1973, the Bretton Woods System was abolished; over the next 25 years the official exchange rate gradually declined, reaching 400 drachmae to 1 U. S. dollar. On 1 January 2002, the Greek drachma was officially replaced as the circulating currency by the euro, and it has not been legal tender since 1 March 2002.

Third modern drachma coins

The first issue of coins minted in 1954 consisted of holed aluminium 5-, 10- and 20-lepta pieces, with 50-lepta, 1-, 2-, 5- and 10-drachma pieces in cupro-nickel. A silver 20-drachma piece was issued in 1960, replacing the 20-drachma banknote. Coins in denominations from 50 lepta to 20 drachmae carried a portrait of King Paul (1947–1964). New coins were introduced in 1966, ranging from 50 lepta to 10 drachmae, depicting King Constantine II (1964–1974). The reverse of all coins was altered in 1971 to reflect the military junta which was in power from 1967 to 1974. This design included a soldier standing in front of the flames of the rising phoenix.

A 20-drachmae coin in cupro-nickel with an image of Europa on the obverse was issued in 1973. In the latter part of 1973, several new coin types were introduced: unholed aluminium (10 and 20 lepta), nickel-brass (50 lepta, 1 drachma, and 2 drachmae) and cupro-nickel (5, 10, and 20 drachmae). These provisional coins carried the design of the phoenix rising from the flame on the obverse, and used the country's new designation as the "Hellenic Republic", replacing the coins also issued in 1973 as the Kingdom of Greece with King Constantine II's portrait. A new series of all 8 denominations was introduced in 1976 carrying images of early national heroes on the smaller values.

Cupro-nickel 50-drachmae coins were introduced in 1980. In 1986, nickel-brass 50-drachma coins were introduced, followed by copper 1- and 2-drachma pieces in 1988 and nickel-brass coins of 20 and 100 drachmae in 1990. In 2000, a set of 6 themed 500-drachma coins was issued to commemorate the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Coins in circulation at the time of the adoption of the euro[17] were

  • .5 drachma (€0.0015)2
  • 1 drachma (€0.0029)1
  • 2 drachmae (€0.0059)1
  • 5 drachmae (€0.0147)
  • 10 drachmae (€0.0293)
  • 20 drachmae (€0.0587)
  • 50 drachmae (€0.147)
  • 100 drachmae (€0.293)
  • 500 drachmae (€1.47)

1 Minted but rarely used. Usually, prices were rounded up to the next multiple of 10 drachmae. 2 Not minted but remained legal tender (not in actual use in 2002)

Post Euro Drachma (XGD)

On Bloomberg terminals, Post Euro Drachma (XGD) was shown. According to Bloomberg, this was just "an internal function which is set up to test." [18]



The first issues of banknotes were in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 drachmae, soon followed by 100, 500 and 1000 drachmae by 1956. 5000-drachma notes were introduced in 1984, followed by 10,000-drachma notes in 1995 and 200-drachma notes in 1997.

Banknotes in circulation at the time of the adoption of the euro[19] were

Banknotes of the Greek drachma
Image Value Equivalent in Euro (€) Main Color Obverse Reverse Watermark
50 drachmae Blue Poseidon (Neptune) Laskarina Bouboulina directing cannon fire at two Ottoman ships during the Greek War of Independence Head of the Charioteer, Polyzalos of Delphi
100 drachmae €0.2935 Brown and violet (obverse); Maroon, green and orange (reverse) Athena of Peiraeus Adamantios Korais; Arkadis monastery (Crete) Head of the Charioteer, Polyzalos of Delphi
200 drachmae €0.5869 Deep orange Rigas Feraios; Feraios singing his patriotic song at lower right Secret school run by Greek Priests during the Ottoman Occupation Bust of Philip of Macedonia
500 drachmae €1.47 Deep green Ioannis Kapodistrias and his birthplace Corfu Head of the Charioteer, Polyzalos of Delphi
1000 drachmae €2.93 Brown Apollo Discus thrower; Ruins of Hera (Olympia) Head of the Charioteer, Polyzalos of Delphi
5000 drachmae €14.67 Deep Blue or Purple and yellow-green Theodoros Kolokotronis; Church of the Holy Apostles (Calamata) Karytaina Bust of Philip of Macedonia
10,000 drachmae €29.35 Deep purple George Papanicolaou; microscope Asclepius Bust of Philip of Macedonia


In Unicode, the currency symbol is U+20AF drachma sign.

See also


External links

  • History of Greek Banknotes
  • Overview of the modern Greek drachma from the BBC
Preceded by
Greek phoenix
Greek currency
Succeeded by

Template:Symbols of Greece

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