The Autobiography of A Coin
by Frank L. Holt
(Original print at ARAMCO WORLD, September/October 1997)
I was born in the fires of an ancient forge in the hilss of the Hindu Kush. Amid the clatter of hammers and the chatter of Greek, I paused on a battered anvil for the final pangs of my creation. Beneath me lay a hardened die bearing the image of my king; atop me pressed another, etched with horsemen and some mirror-image words. Then the hammer struck, hard and heavy, ringing out the news of my nativity. With each belo the dies dug deeper into my flesh, stamping their images as father and mother of a freshly minted coin. As I look back across two millennia for these earliest memories, I marbel at my long, now legendary, journey from mine to mint to market to museum. I remeber Rome as a rising power, a century before the first Caesars; I recall the early days of Emperor Asoka's moral conquests and the builing of China's Great Wall. I have outlived six of the seven wonders of the ancient world. (I am told the Great Pyramid still stands) Yet I am no mute ruin: money talks. Mine is the voice of history, recorded by numismatists trained to hear my ancient stories of art, industry, worship, and war. My eloquence youth, when legends traced my origins to a colony of giant ants.
Most gold in ancient times was mined by condemned criminals and slaves whose lives meant little to their taskmasters. In my days, the mines of Egypt were legendary hives of human misery. But it was said that gold in great abundance could be found near India, where giant ants piled gold-bearing dust at the entrances of their tunnels. These ants--nearly the size of dogs, the legend said--defended their burrows fiercely against men who dared to steal the spoils of their digging. But such danger was trivial given the normal costs of ancient mining, and so the legend spread as far as Greece. When Alexander the Great invaded the Indus Valley in the fourth century BC, his Greek soldiers eagerly...