The Head of Poseidon: 50 Drachmae (Greece, 1978)-Founder's Article

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

This Greek banknote represents the 1st entry of the Third Modern Drachma, 1978-87 sub-series. The Third Drachma circulated for nearly 48 years, from 1 May 1954 to 1 March 2002. The Third Drachma, can be broken into 5 printing phases. With sub-series issued in 1954, 1954-56, 1964-70, 1978-87, and 1995.


Initially the Drachma was pegged to the US dollar, until the Bretton Woods system was abolished in 1971. Which caused the Drachma to undergo continuous inflation, relative to the US dollar (1973:1 to 30, 1998:1 to 400). On 1 January 2002, the Greek drachma was replaced by the Euro. The drachma ceased being legal tender on 1 March 2002.


Observe

The observe prominently features the head of Poseidon, the ancient Greek God of the Sea. On the obverse’s lower right is an illustration of the construction of the Argo. From the famous Greek legend Jason and the Argonauts. This scene was taken from a first century Ancient Roman terracotta relief, found near the Porta Latina (Latin Gate) in Rome. The famous scene depicts the Greek goddess Athena adjusting the Argo's sail. While helmsman Tiphys assists with the mast and the hero Argos sits across the stern.


At the note's upper center is the text “Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος”, which translates/transliterates to the Bank of Greece. Below is the text “Δράχμες Πενήντα”, identifying the note's fifty drachmae value. Which is further reinforced by 4 additional occurrences of the number “50”. Located at the note's center, lower left, upper right, and left of the Argo. This final “50” is backed by the Trident of Poseidon.


Reverse

The near entirety of note's reverse is covered by an illustration of Laskarina Bouboulina, directing fire at 2 Ottoman ships, at the siege of Nafplio (1822). The illustration is heavily inspired by the oil paining “Bouboulina”, by master German painter Peter Von Hess.


At the upper center is the text “Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος”, the Bank of Greece. And at the lower center is “Πενήντα Δράχμες”, identifying the note's fifty drachmae value. The is the number “50” on the the note's upper left, upper right, and lower left.


“The Head of the Charioteer”

The watermark features the “Head of the Charioteer” of Delphi (Heniokhos). A 5th century bronze stature, considered by many to the finest surviving example of ancient Greek bronze sculptures. Heniokhos was commissioned to commemorate the victory of tyrant Polyzalus of Gela and his chariot. During the Pythian Games of 470 BC, at Delphi. Held in honor of ancient Greek god Pythean Apollo.


The life-size 1.8m (5 ft 11in) statue of a chariot driver was found, in 1896. At the Sanctuary of Apollo, in Delphi. And is rare surviving example of a freestanding ancient Greek bronze suture. As the majority of stature from the period, have since corroded or been melted down for raw material. The mostly intact charioteer, is believed to have survived due to a rock slide, in 373 BC.


Kapetánissa

Simply known as Kapetánissa (Greek for she-captain) by her crew. Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was a heroine of the Greek War of Independence (1821-29). And is alleged to be first woman-admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy.


Bouboulina was born in an Ottoman prison in Constantinople. She was daughter of Arvanite captain Stavrianos Pinotsis, from the island of Hydra and his wife Skevo. Who were imprisoned for the failed Orlof Revolution (1769–1770), against the Ottoman Empire.


After her father's death in prison, Bouboulina and her mother returned to Hydra. Then moved to the affluent island of Spetses, where her mother married Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof. Bouboulina herself married twice, first Dimitrios Yiannouzas and later to wealthy captain Dimitrios Bouboulis. Who was killed in battle, against Algerian pirates in 1811.


Bouboulina inherited Dimitrios's fortune and trading fleet. She used the fortune to commission four ships, including the warship Agamemnon. In 1816, the Ottomans attempted to confiscate Bouboulina's property. Because of Dimitrios's alliance with the Russians, during Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812). Bouboulina sailed to Constantinople, to meet Russian ambassador Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov, seeking Russian asylum. In recognition of Bouboulis' service to the Russians, Strogonov granted her in Crimea. While in Constantinople Bouboulina met Sultan Mahmud II mother, who reportedly convinced her son to abandon the seizure. After three months of exile in Crimea, Bouboulina returned to Spetses.


Upon returning, Bouboulina allegedly later joined Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends). A Greek revolutionary organization founded in Odessa (Ukraine), against Ottoman rule. In 1820, the construction of Agamemnon was completed. Bouboulina bribed Turkish officials to ignore the ship's size, which was later one of the largest warships of the Greek rebel fleet. On 13 March 1821, Bouboulina raised her own Greek flag, on the mast of Agamemnon. The flag was based on the flag of the Byzantine Komnenos dynasty.


The people of Spetses revolted on 3 April and later joined forces with ships from other Greek islands. Leading to a series of successful sea battles and blockades against Ottoman forces. Bouboulina sailed with eight ships and began a blockade and siege of Nafplion. Leading to Greek victory and the surrender of the Ottoman garrison, at the fortresses of Nafplion. The Ottoman vice admiral was beheaded for his loss. She later blockaded and captured the ports of Monemvasia and Pylos. On May 1821, her son Yiannis Yiannouzas was killed in battle, at Argos against superior Ottoman forces.

By 1823, civil war broke out between the provisional Greek government and it's military leadership. Bouboulina was arrested in 1824, due to her relation to General Theodoros Kolokotronis and was exile in Spetses. During a family feud in 1825, an unidentified member of the Koutsis family shot Bouboulina, instantly killing her. After her death, Tsar Alexander I of Russia posthumously granted Bouboulina the honorary rank of Admiral of the Russian Navy.


Third Modern Drachma Gallery

(Gallery contains only banknotes within the database)


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 144 × 64 mm, slight longer than its predecessor the 50 Drachmae 1964 (142 × 64 mm).

  • This note ceased being legal tender on 1 March 2002, after it was fully replaced by the Euro.

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