The Use of Magnifying Lenses in the Classical World

The Use of Magnifying Lenses in the Classical World

By Harvey Hanna

Published Online (2010)

Introduction: There is no argument that the coiners of Ancient Greece, first starting in the Archaic Period, produced some of the most exquisite examples of miniature art in history. These coins, ranging in size from the tiny silver 1/8 Obol minted in Phocaea, Ionia,valued at 1/48 of a Drachm and about the diameter of a pencil eraser, to the huge Deka drachm, half again the size of a United States silver dollar, are remarkable in the fine detail of the impression transferred from the striking dies. This level of almost microscopic detail suggests that the die cutters would have either been suffering from extreme myopia or have access to magnifying lenses.

The use of weighed lumps of metal as a form of money goes back nearly to the beginning of recorded history. Cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia record payments

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