Swiss to return ancient octadrachm coin to Greece

  • Thu Jan 12th, 2012 9:23pm
  • News

Associated Press

THESSALONIKI, Greece — A Swiss court has ordered the confiscation of a very rare ancient silver coin that was allegedly illegally excavated in northern Greece and sold at auction in Switzerland, Greek and Swiss officials say.

The lawyer representing Greece in the case said Thursday that the ruling in October opens the way for the early 5th century B.C. coin’s return to Greece. The debt-crippled country’s rich cultural heritage has long suffered depredations from antiquities smugglers supplying a lucrative international market.

“The coin was treated in the Swiss court ruling as a product of criminal activity that was illegally exported from our country and was then illegally offered (for sale) abroad,” Ilias Bisias said.

The high-denomination octadrachm — or eight-drachma — coin was struck by a little-known Thracian ruler named Mosses around 480 B.C., the time of the second failed Persian invasion of Greece.

Thessaloniki University professor of archaeology Michalis Tiverios said examples of Mosses’ currency are very rare.

“There are very few coins struck in his name,” Tiverios said. “Octadrachms were heavy coins used for transactions abroad, usually for mercenaries’ wages, which is why they are very rarely found in Greece.”

Greek authorities have pressed charges of antiquities theft in the case, but no suspects have yet been named.