In the Greek and Roman Era there were a number of sources in Europe tapped for gold..
These were often alluvial (alluvium is loose soil or sediment, usually around water) deposits near the mouths of rivers in Lydia, Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor. Later more standard mines were found in the Balkans. Rome found similar river deposits in North Italy, Spain, and the Rhine and England. Later they found mines in Spain, and Dacia in the Balkans. These deposits were mostly mined out, or are too small for the current voracious need for Gold.
Electrum coins were outlawed by King Croesus (560-546 B.C.) and gold or silver coins were issued. Pure metal coins were necessary to
encourage trade relations with Greece, where electrum was not found
native in the alluvial deposits. The Greeks would not accept electrum
coins in trade. The early source of the gold for coinage was gold
mined from the alluvial deposits in Lydia and Greece. Thasos was a
rich land south of Thrace that had prolific gold mines and a
controlling interest in mainland silver mines during the sixth century
B.C. In Greece, the right to issue coins was reserved for political
authorities and heads of state.
In 546 B.C. the Persians overran Lydia and adopted the use of coinage
without changing the Lydian style or technology. However, they did
bring a wealth of gold taken from Egypt. At their peak, they looted
40,000 pounds of gold a year from Egypt. This was mostly Ethiopian
gold now melted into the Asian melting pot. The Persians also had
their own gold supply. The Arabian shore of the Red Sea offered
alluvial deposits so rich that the Greek historian Diodurus wrote that
the alluvial mud positively glittered. Gold mines used to provide new
gold to early mints were in operation at Phoenicia, Syria, Phrygia and
Lampsacus. The river Oxus, known today as Amu Darya, which emptied
into the Caspian Sea, was legendary to the Greeks for its alluvial
gold. Meanwhile, Lampsacus, at the Dardanelles, issued electrum
coinage in the fifth century B.C. and changed to gold in the fourth
century B.C. to encourage trade with the Greeks.
A primary Greek deposit of alluvial gold was the river Pactolus which
drained the Anatolian Highlands. Today the exact location of the river
is uncertain and the gold strata are no longer being eroded. It was
the gold from these sources that King Croesus used to issue the first
true coinage backed by his crown. Because Greece as a whole had
inadequate gold resources to support an extensive gold coinage,
silver, for the first time, became the medium of exchange and the gold
to silver ratio was set at 1:13. A noted exception to the silver
coinage was the issue by Athens of gold coins from 407 to 404 B.C. to
pay for the Peloponnesian War.
Philip I of Macedonia issued a prolific gold coinage after the
conquest of northern Greece in 348 B.C. Philip II provided the Greeks
with their first practical gold coinage from the gold mines at Thrace,
Macedonia. So much gold became available that the ratio of gold to
silver changed to 1:10. . Inflation had been introduced into
civilization. Modern hindsight might well call this the fifth Horseman
of the Apocalypse (after Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence).
Alexander the Great increased the gold coin supply from bullion taken
from the Persian treasuries. Gold was again being recycled and not all
coinage was produced from gold mined for coinage.
ROMAN GOLD COINAGE
The growth of Rome began at a time when the world supply of gold was
mounting to a very great volume and was widely disseminated. Like
Greece, the Romans began their rise to power with very little gold in
their natural resources.
The first Roman gold came from the river Po in the western Alps and
from southern Piedmont. Rome was slow to acquire vast amounts of gold
and even forbade burial of gold with the deceased after 450 B.C. The
Second Punic War gave Rome the prize that changed its gold position.
The acquisition of Spain brought stupendous amounts of gold to Rome.
Gold came from the mines and alluvial deposits in the Aduar Basin, the
Malaga district, the Plains of Granada and the slopes of the Sierra
Nevada Mountains. Gold is still found in these places today. Rome also
got, from the treasuries of Syracuse, 2700 pounds of gold.
Roman conquest brought gold to the Imperial treasury from the far
reaches of the Empire. Gold was recycled to produce many of the gold
coins issued during the time of the Roman Empire. Roman Imperial gold
coins circulated far beyond the frontiers on a vast scale, making it
the first world coinage. The coins most circulated were those of
Augustus. The gold for these coins was mined, and the coins minted, on
a large scale, at Lugdunum in Gaul and at Calagurris in northern
Spain. There has been prolific gold mining at these sites since
antiquity. Caesar provided another source of gold with the conquest of
Britain. The geographer Strabo wrote that gold was one of the
commodities exported to Rome after Caesar’s triumph in Britain. The
Romans extracted gold from mines at Wales, Devon and Cornwall.
The price of mining gold took a leap when the Romans developed
hydraulic mining in the Spanish mines. Rivers were re-channeled and
destroyed. Strabo wrote that this method produced more gold than the
deep mines. Some of the Roman mines in Spain were 650 feet deep.
Slaves in the mines never saw the light of day. The mines were worked
until they collapsed on their inhabitants.
Roman Egypt issued the first coinage in that ancient land. The first
systematic mining and use of gold occurred in the Nile Valley, yet the
Pharaohs did not issue a coinage apart from a very few and minor
issues. After the death of Alexander the Great the Ptolemies became
the ruling class in the land of the Pharaohs. They promptly issued a
prolific coinage of heavy gold coins.
As the influence of Rome expanded to include most of the known world,
their sources of gold and their hunger for it expanded as well. Gold
was taken from the Rhine River, from mines at Vercellae and from
Transylvania. It was brought in trade from the Atlantic coast of
central Africa, and from the sources of the Egyptians. Gold from all
over the world flowed into Rome. The wealth of gold reached a point
where massive statues of pure gold were displayed. The wife of Emperor
Claudius, Agrippina, in A.D. 49, wore a tunic of plaited gold thread.
She poisoned her husband five years later so that her son, Nero, could
become emperor. Then Nero had her murdered five years later.
All this Roman gold was scattered over Europe and Asia when the
barbarian invaders sacked Rome. This sacking ended the systematic
accumulation of gold on a large scale in Europe until after the Dark