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date: 15 April 2024



  • John Ellis Jones


Laurium, a hilly district in south *Attica near Cape *Sunium, was one of the largest mining districts of Greece, producing *silver from argentiferous lead ores. The geology features overlying strata of schists and marbles/limestones, with the richest ores at the first and third ‘contacts’. Some exploitation started in the early bronze age, certainly at *Thoricus. Early operations involved opencast and gallery mining, and later included the sinking of deep shafts. Athens' issue of silver *coinage stimulated production, enhanced by the finding of rich, probably ‘third contact’ lodes at Maroneia before 483 bce (Ath. pol. 22. 7); this financed Themistocles' fleet programme. The mines flourished throughout the 5th cent. till the Decelean War, then declined, revived greatly in the second half of the 4th cent., were dormant in the 3rd but reworked in the 2nd, until the slave revolt of 103 bce. There were spasmodic attempts to reprocess tailings in the 1st cent. ce, and to reopen mines in the 4th and later.


  • Ancient Geography

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