Death Of The Drachma
(MONEY Magazine) – Having officially joined the European Union on Jan. 1, Greece began phasing out the drachma, Europe's oldest currency and the survivor of some 2,500 years of war and economic turmoil. Below, highlights from its storied history.
c. 650 B.C. First minted in what is now western Turkey. Literally, a "handful," a drachma is equivalent to a handful of iron spits or arrows.
c. 330 B.C. The conquests of Alexander the Great (depicted on the drachma at right), make it the standard currency through much of the world, used as far west as Italy and as far east as Afghanistan, until the rise of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century B.C.
1833 Upon gaining independence from Ottoman rule, Greece's monarchy revives the drachma to evoke the spirit of classical Greece.
1922 Battling inflation, the government orders all drachma notes cut in half. The left sides are worth half face value; the right are forced loans to the state.
1940-44 Hyperinflation under Nazi occupation spurs need for 100 billion drachma note--which could buy a newspaper. New Drachmas created after liberation are each worth 50 billion inflated drachmas.
2001 Greek financial institutions commence trading in euros; phaseout of drachma as everyday currency begins. Some euro coins and bills will depict ancient Greece.