The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

Discuss the world of the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Egyptians.
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billd89
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The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

Post by billd89 »

Food for thought.
https://bigthink.com/sponsored/money-in-ancient-greece/

Ecclesiastes 5:10 is supposedly dated 900-800 BC, but "money" isn't even a widespread concept until when, 600 BC?

I would think Money is found in Egypt +100 years before Israel. So what are the oldest references to Money in the Levant?
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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billd89 wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 1:06 pm Food for thought.
https://bigthink.com/sponsored/money-in-ancient-greece/

Ecclesiastes 5:10 is supposedly dated 900-800 BC, but "money" isn't even a widespread concept until when, 600 BC?

I would think Money is found in Egypt +100 years before Israel. So what are the oldest references to Money in the Levant?
Ecclesiastes probably dates to the Persian period c 400 BCE.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes

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Re: Or Later (My Point)

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andrewcriddle wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 7:20 amEcclesiastes probably dates to the Persian period c 400 BCE.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes

Andrew Criddle
Or later. c.300-200 BCE is also plausible.
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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The word is simply "silver," the form of it not being stated. It was a medium of exchanges because silver could be worked into jewelry and furniture decorations, which enhance the owner's status. I believe that it was exchanged in ingots, not as coins. "Talent" was such a measure of silver, although the actual weight varied depending on region. Midas had popularized use of electrum (silver mixed with gold) as a coin, but such coins were more of a PR show than anything, as nobody actually took an Athenian Owl (the name given to their city coin because it featured an image of the head of an owl) onto the market to buy anything. They were for token payment to merchants from the far east who brought in luxury goods. The merchant can then, upon returning to their homeland, show them off and everyone would agree "this man has 12,000 owls!" IIRC, all that Athens had to trade back was tall timbers that could be used as masts and other parts of sailing vessels. "For provisions we have given you for your return voyage, we have deducted 15 owls" says a receipt.

There used to be a website that traced the use of silver as a form of payment or storage of wealth, from the time of Midas in Lydia through Greek and then Roman, times, into the medieval period. I lost access to it when my old Laptop died a sad death.

I guess that the most ancient of Romans (or was that Greeks?) kept their wealth as copper rods, and might exchange a handful of these rods for goods or services. Back then weapons of war were made of brass, which is made partly from copper, so copper had value.

We probably have the king of Lydia to credit the use of silver, which is also a utilitarian metal with value, with gold, something they had a fair amount of. But he mixed his silver with his gold. Gold, being super malleable, was by far the best one to use for jewelry and adorning homes to be seen by the neighbors. The end result was a system where one measure of gold had the same value as 15 measures of silver.

Everyday transactions like buying bread or paying for a craftsperson's services, were made in Copper or brass, a metal of considerably less value, and the proportions of copper/brass to equal one silver measure changed wildly over time and other pressures.
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The ... 5000_Years

Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a book by anthropologist David Graeber published in 2011. It explores the historical relationship of debt with social institutions such as barter, marriage, friendship, slavery, law, religion, war and government. It draws on the history and anthropology of a number of civilizations, large and small, from the first known records of debt from Sumer in 3500 BC until the present.

///


SYNOPSIS

///

Graeber claims that debt and credit historically appeared before money, which itself appeared before barter. This is the opposite of the narrative given in standard economics texts dating back to Adam Smith. To support this, he cites numerous historical, ethnographic and archaeological studies. He also claims that the standard economics texts cite no evidence for suggesting that barter came before money, credit and debt, and he has seen no credible reports suggesting such.

The primary theme of the book is that excessive popular indebtedness has sometimes led to unrest, insurrection, and revolt.

He argues that credit systems originally developed as means of account long before the advent of coinage, which appeared around 600 BC. Credit can still be seen operating in non-monetary economies. Barter, on the other hand, seems primarily to have been used for limited exchanges between different societies that had infrequent contact and often were in a context of ritualized warfare.

Graeber suggests that economic life originally related to social currencies. These were closely related to routine non-market interactions within a community. This created an "everyday communism" based on mutual expectations and responsibilities among individuals. This type of economy is contrasted with exchange based on formal equality and reciprocity (but not necessarily leading to market relations) and hierarchy. The hierarchies in turn tended to institutionalize inequalities in customs and castes.

The great Axial Age civilizations (800 BC–600 AD) began to use coins to quantify the economic values of portions of what Graeber calls "human economies". Graeber says these civilizations held a radically different conception of debt and social relations. These were based on the radical incalculability of human life and the constant creation and recreation of social bonds through gifts, marriages, and general sociability. The author postulates the growth of a "military–coinage–slave complex" around this time. These were enforced by mercenary armies that looted cities and cut human beings from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere. The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers. This was combined with obligations to pay taxes in currency; the obligation to pay taxes with money required people to engage in monetary transactions, often with very disadvantageous terms of trade. This typically increased debt and slavery.

At this time, great religions also spread, and the general questions of philosophical inquiry emerged in world history. These included discussions of debt and its relation to ethics (e.g., Plato's Republic)

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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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Leucius Charinus wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 10:15 pm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The ... 5000_Years

Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a book by anthropologist David Graeber published in 2011. It explores the historical relationship of debt with social institutions such as barter, marriage, friendship, slavery, law, religion, war and government. It draws on the history and anthropology of a number of civilizations, large and small, from the first known records of debt from Sumer in 3500 BC until the present.

Hi Pete,

Interesting. While I agree that our modern (since about 1800s) economic textbook descriptions of how an economy works does not work well with the scanty information we have from ancient evidence.

I'm not sure if I am happy with the kind of sociological/anthropological model that this critic has plugged into the equation to fill in the gaps. I've posted here at BC&H my opinion of the problems of using socio-economic models to "explain" historical evidence. Marxist style socio-economic models have not, IMHO, stood the test of time when it comes to the accuracy of predictions. "Marxist" is used above in a neutral sense. Those who practice it concentrates on issues like debt bondage, slavery, etc.

I remember that in my college days (late 1974-78) economics textbooks were breaking economics down into Micro & Macro categories. Micro was practical everyday economics that anyone (or any business) can employ to track income and expenditures. Macro kind of uses second order derivatives on the aggregate values to tease useful information out of it the pool of data.

Only later (say, the 1990s onwards) did I realize that Finley believed that ancient economies were all practical (including barter, in-kind, and monetary means of transactions), and that there was not enough global trade volume to form a macro-economic system. If any did exist, and we have not been able to see it pop out of the picture.

But weren't there multiple predecessors to capitalism, like mercantilism?

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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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DCHindley wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 4:36 pm I guess that the most ancient of Romans (or was that Greeks?) kept their wealth as copper rods, and might exchange a handful of these rods for goods or services. Back then weapons of war were made of brass, which is made partly from copper, so copper had value.
1. As far as I am aware, only the Spartans used rods as currency, and their rods were made from iron.

2. Weapons were made from bronze, iron, and occasionally from steel, not brass.
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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ABuddhist wrote: Mon Sep 05, 2022 4:41 am
DCHindley wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 4:36 pm I guess that the most ancient of Romans (or was that Greeks?) kept their wealth as copper rods, and might exchange a handful of these rods for goods or services. Back then weapons of war were made of brass, which is made partly from copper, so copper had value.
1. As far as I am aware, only the Spartans used rods as currency, and their rods were made from iron.

2. Weapons were made from bronze, iron, and occasionally from steel, not brass.
To me, bronze and brass are pretty much the same thing, copper mixed with tin etc.

Melted brass can be poured into a trench mold to get bars. Iron, in early times, was beaten from heated ore to force iron particles to weld together. I suppose it could be beaten into a "rod" shape, but when I've seen pictures of the process it is usually a lump. This lump can be worked onto any shape, really. In the Roman period, IIRC, they did not have the ability to melt iron efficiently. Steel could be created from an iron bar/blade shape by beating carbon into it, not by smelting. Sounds like fun ...
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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ABuddhist wrote: Mon Sep 05, 2022 4:41 am
DCHindley wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 4:36 pm I guess that the most ancient of Romans (or was that Greeks?) kept their wealth as copper rods, and might exchange a handful of these rods for goods or services. Back then weapons of war were made of brass, which is made partly from copper, so copper had value.
1. As far as I am aware, only the Spartans used rods as currency, and their rods were made from iron.

2. Weapons were made from bronze, iron, and occasionally from steel, not brass.
I was thinking of the ancient Greek obol, which consisted of six copper rods. Yes, the Spartans had their iron obol too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obol_(coin)

Obols were used from early times. According to Plutarch they were originally spits of copper or bronze traded by weight, while six obols make a drachma or a handful, since that was as many as the hand could grasp.[2] Heraklides of Pontus in his work On Etymologies mentions the obols of Heraion and derives the origin of obolos from obelos. This is confirmed by the historian Ephorus on his work On Inventions. Excavations at Argos discovered several dozen of these early obols, dated well before 800 BC; they are now displayed at the Numismatic Museum of Athens. Archaeologists today describe the iron spits as "utensil-money" since excavated hoards indicate that during the Late Geometric period they were exchanged in handfuls (drachmae) of six spits,[3] they were not used for manufacturing artifacts as metallurgical analyses suggest, but they were most likely used as token-money.[4] Plutarch states the Spartans had an iron obol of four coppers. They retained the cumbersome and impractical bars rather than proper coins to discourage the pursuit of wealth.[5]

Sorry to have to use Wikipedia.
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Re: The Invention of Money, Money in the Mediterranean Zone

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DCHindley wrote: Mon Sep 05, 2022 4:28 am
Leucius Charinus wrote: Sun Sep 04, 2022 10:15 pm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The ... 5000_Years

Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a book by anthropologist David Graeber published in 2011. It explores the historical relationship of debt with social institutions such as barter, marriage, friendship, slavery, law, religion, war and government. It draws on the history and anthropology of a number of civilizations, large and small, from the first known records of debt from Sumer in 3500 BC until the present.

Hi Pete,

Interesting. While I agree that our modern (since about 1800s) economic textbook descriptions of how an economy works does not work well with the scanty information we have from ancient evidence.

I'm not sure if I am happy with the kind of sociological/anthropological model that this critic has plugged into the equation to fill in the gaps. I've posted here at BC&H my opinion of the problems of using socio-economic models to "explain" historical evidence. Marxist style socio-economic models have not, IMHO, stood the test of time when it comes to the accuracy of predictions. "Marxist" is used above in a neutral sense. Those who practice it concentrates on issues like debt bondage, slavery, etc.
Hi DCH,

I must admit that I too place such models as being in the class of either secondary or tertiary evidence. That is to say I am more interested in the primary evidence. Stuff like Stark's model of the rise of the Christian demographic in antiquity leaves me cold.

Debt bondage and slavery still exist on this planet. I can understand that they existed prior to the use of coinage. It's not pretty stuff but its (the background) reality.
I remember that in my college days (late 1974-78) economics textbooks were breaking economics down into Micro & Macro categories. Micro was practical everyday economics that anyone (or any business) can employ to track income and expenditures. Macro kind of uses second order derivatives on the aggregate values to tease useful information out of it the pool of data.

Only later (say, the 1990s onwards) did I realize that Finley believed that ancient economies were all practical (including barter, in-kind, and monetary means of transactions), and that there was not enough global trade volume to form a macro-economic system. If any did exist, and we have not been able to see it pop out of the picture.
I too did a few years of mathematics at Uni in the 70's. Peripheral economic equations would sometimes appear for solutions. I can also understand why the environmentalist David Suzuki refers to economics as a psychosis. People and the elements of nature appear external to it. Naturally enough I dropped out of Uni to become a full-time surfer.
But weren't there multiple predecessors to capitalism, like mercantilism?
I skimmed this book many years ago. It does make some interesting observations. One of the more interesting claims made by Graeber involves the claim that the basis of debt cycles back and forward between what is defined as "virtual credit" and what is defined as the Military-coinage-slavery complex. Here is a summary I made:

Credit Versus Bullion, And the Cycles of History


First Agrarian Empires (3500 BCE - 800 BCE)
(2700 years) Virtual credit


The Axial Age ( 800 BCE - 600 CE )
(1400 years) Military-coinage-slavery complex


The Middle Ages ( 600 CE - 1450 CE)
( 850 years) Virtual credit


Age of the Great Capitalist Empires (1450 CE - 1971 CE)
( 521 years) Military-coinage-slavery complex


Beginning of Something Yet to Be Determined . (1971 CE)
Nixon announced U.S. dollar no longer redeemable in gold



ETA: I invite your comments on your study of the Plato extract in the NHL
viewtopic.php?p=141362#p141362
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