The daric was a monetary unit and royal gold coin of ancient Persia, first struck during the reign of Darius I, king of Persia from 521 to 485 b.c. According to the Greek historian, Herodotus, Darius regarded his coinage as no laughing matter, as revealed in the following anecdote taken from Herodotus’s History:
Now Aryandes had been made governor of Egypt by Cambyses. He it was who in after times was punished with death by Darius for seeking to rival him. Aware, by report and also by his own eyesight, that Darius wished to leave a memorial of himself, such as no king had ever left before, Aryandes resolved to follow his example and did so, till he got his reward. Darius had refined gold to the last perfection of purity in order to have coins struck of it: Aryandes, in his Egyptian government, did the very same with silver, so that to this day there is no such pure silver anywhere as the Aryandic. Darius, when this came to his ears, brought another charge of rebellion, against Aryandes, and put him to death. (Bk. IV)
Soldiers received 1 daric per month as pay. Xenophon’s Anabasis makes a reference to Cyrus agreeing to pay his soldiers 1 1/2 daric per month. The daric is mentioned in the Bible, in Ezra 2.69: “according to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work sixty-one thousand darics of gold.”
Evidence of smaller coins is scanty but it seems that the Persians accepted the duodecimal system common in ancient Asiatic monetary systems. Under the duodecimal system, fractional coins came in amounts of one-third, one-sixth, and one-twelfth of the gold unit, the daric in the case of Persia. The largest silver unit was usually one-tenth of the gold unit, but in the case of Persia the shekel was apparently equal to one-twentieth of the gold unit. The silver unit usually followed similar subdivisions as the gold unit. The only known subdivisions of the daric represent one-twelfth and one-fourth pieces, and the only known subdivisions of the shekel represent one-third and one-sixth pieces. The Persians seemed to have preferred simplicity in monetary affairs, and may have shunned a proliferation of fractional coins.
The daric consisted of 130 grains of gold, comparable to the 123 grains of gold for the sovereign, the famous British gold coin of the classic gold standard era from 1875 to 1914.
For 200 years darics were the only gold coins of the Greek world, circulating alongside the silver coinage of the Greek city-states. To the Persian kings the supremacy of their gold coins reflected their own personal supremacy. The Persian system was bimetallic, based on official silver to gold ratio of 13 1/3 to 1. This unvarying ratio was preserved until the invasions of Alexander the Great, accounting for some of the stability of the system. Toward the end of the empire, silver rose in value relative to gold and was exported, effectively leaving Persia on a gold standard. The daric never suffered the debasement that many currencies suffer in the declining phases of societies.