Coins from all over European continent
Europe is widely represented with a significant number of old gold coins from the collection of the Bank of Greece, which largely reflect recent European history (the oldest one here dating back to the 17th century). Their imagery usually includes portraits of the respective rulers and coats of arms, as the majority of European countries were ruled by monarchies up until the 20th century. Additionally, it is often the case that the inscriptions on the coins (and the imagery to a lesser extent) bring Christianity to the fore as a core element of the European identity. The establishment of democratic regimes typically enriches the depictions used on coins with allegorical themes that promote the new ideology (such as ‘Marianne’, the symbolic representation of the French Republic), as well as themes that highlight the history of the countries and/or the scientific and artistic achievements of their peoples. Depictions of international sporting events (such as the Olympic Games) equally become particularly popular, as they promote the spirit of international cooperation. Quite rarely, some European countries – like Malta and Switzerland – employ elements of nature to promote their national identity.
A more recent chapter of modern European history, namely that of colonialism, is eloquently reflected in the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II on coins from both the United Kingdom and numerous other countries. The British Overseas Territories, Malta, Australia, Canada, and many other members of today’s Commonwealth of Nations – previously known as the British Commonwealth – remind us through such coins of their former political regime as acquisitions and colonies of Great Britain.
Finally, a completely different aspect of the European continent’s past can be traced on the coins of (primarily monarchist) countries of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Austro-Hungary, Russia, Finland, Yugoslavia, Albania, and Cyprus, as in several of their representations these countries adopt the symbol of the double-headed eagle, in an attempt to play up their relationship with the powerful and ecumenical Byzantine Empire – i.e. the Eastern Roman Empire – or at times validate the claims of their rulers as heirs to the byzantine emperor.