Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Drachma

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(Gr. drachmé), a Greek silver coin. The Greeks derived the word from drássomai, "to grip", "to take a handful"; cf. drágma, manipulus, "a handful". Thus the term originally signified a handful of grain (Liddell and Scott; Riehm, "Handwörterbuch", Smith, "Dict. of Antiq."). But in Vigouroux, "Dict. de la Bible", the term is derived from daraq-mana, the name of a Persian coin equivalent to the Hebrew drkmwn, dárkemôn. The Persian word darag, Assyrian darku, means "degree", "division". Thus the words daraq-mana and drachma would signify a part of a mina. The darag-mana was also called a Daric because it was first struck by the emperor Darius Hystaspis. The drachma contained six oboli. It was the fourth part of a stater, the hundredth part of a mina, and the six-thousandth part of a talent. The precise value of the drachma differed at various times. The two principal standards of currency in the Grecian states were the Attic and the Æginetan. The Attic drachma had the greater circulation after the time of Alexander the Great. Its weight was about 66 grains, its value was a little less than twenty cents (nine pence, three farthings), and its size was about that of a quarter. On the one side it had the head of Minerva, and on the reverse her emblem, the owl, surrounded by a crown of laurels. The Æginetan drachma weighed about 93 grains and was equivalent to one and two-thirds Attic drachmas. It was current in the Peloponnessus (Corinth excepted, Riehm, "Handwörterb.") and in Macedonia until Alexander the Great. The drachma is mentioned in the Old Testament (II Machabees, xii, 43), when Judas sends 12,000 drachmas to Jerusalem that sacrifices may be offered for the dead. In the New Testament (Luke, xv, 8, 9), Christ used the word in the parable of the woman that has ten drachmas (D. V. "groats") and loses one.

RIEHM, Handwörterbuch; BEURLIER in VIG. Dict. de la Bible, s. v. Drachme; BABINGTON in Dict. of the Bible s. v. Mondy; WEX, Métrologie grecque et romaine (Paris, 1886).

C. VAN DEN BIESEN