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Obolus: Map


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Attica, Athens.
After 449 BC
LUCANIA, Metapontion.
Circa 425-350 BC.
Æ 21mm

The obolus (ancient Greek: ὀβολός "obolós", plural: ὀβολοί "oboloí") is a Greekmarker silver coin worth a sixth of a drachma. In Classical Athensmarker it was subdivided into eight chalkoi (χαλκοί "copper pieces"). Two obols made a diobol. Triobols were also in use.

According to Plutarch, the Spartansmarker had an iron obolus of four chalkoi. The obolus is also a measurement of weight. In ancient Greece it was defined as one sixth of a drachma, or about 0.5 gram. In ancient Rome it was defined as 1/48 of a Roman ounce, or about 0.57 gram, but was never issued as a coin as part of the early republican coinage system. Below the drachm was the dupondius (1/5) to the quartuncia (1/480). In modern Greece it is equivalent to one decigram, or 0.1 gram.

The word "obolos" or "obelos" (ὀβελός) means a long thin metal rod, such as a spit. "Oboloi" came to be used as currency because they represented ingots of copper or bronze, and were traded as such. Sparta chose to retain the use of the cumbersome, impractical "oboloi" rather than coins proper, so as to discourage the pursuit of wealth.

According to a nurse in Eubulus' Pamphilus, for the price of an obol, one could obtain a kantharos with a chous of wine, equivalent to about six ounces (three liters).

A coin for Charon

Main article: Charon's obol.
The deceased were buried with an obolus, placed in the mouth of the corpse, in order that, once a dead person's shade reached the underworld of Hades, it would be able to pay Charon for passage across the river Acheronmarker. Those without enough wealth, or whose friends refused to follow proper burial rites, were forced to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years.


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