The Ancient Library

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On this page: Barbarians – Basil – Basileus – Basilica



were generally well known from the public character of their occupation, and they naturally gained great experience in busi­ness. Consequently their advice and as­sistance were often asked for in the ordinary affairs of life. They would be called in to attest the conclusion of contracts, and would take charge of sums of money, the title to which was disputed, and of im­portant documents. Business of this kind was generally in the hands of resident aliens. We hear, in isolated instances, of State-banks. But this business was carried on in the vast majority of cases by the great sanctuaries, such as those of Delphi, Delos, Ephesus, and Samos, which were much used as banks for loans and deposits, both by individuals and governments.

The Romans had, in some exceptional cases, State-banks under the superintendence of public officials. The nummularn and argentarii occupied the same position among them as the trapezitce among the Greeks. The taberna; argentarice, or banks, were set up in the forum, especially about or under the three arched buildings called lanl. The nummularii had a two-fold function.

(1) They were officers of the mint, charged with assaying new coins, holding a bank (memo) for putting new coins into circula­tion, taking old or foreign coinage into currency, and testing the genuineness of money on occasion of payments being made.

(2) They carried on the business of* exchange on their own account, at the same time acting as argentarii. In other words, they received money on deposit, put out capital at interest for their clients, got in outstand­ing debts, made payments, executed sales, especially auctions of property left to be disposed of by will, lent money or negotiated loans, and executed payments in foreign places by reference to bankers there. The argentarii and nummularii were alike subject to the superintendence of the state authorities. In Rome they were responsible to the Prcefectus Urbi, in the provinces to the governors. They were legally bound to keep their books with strict accuracy. The books were of three kinds: (a) the codex accepti et expensi, or cash book, in which receipts and payments were entered, with the date, the person's name, and the occasion of the transaction; (ft) the liber rdtiftnum, in which every client had a special page setting out his debit and credit account; and (c) the adversaria, or diary for the entry of business still in hand. In cases of dispute these books had to be pro-

duced for purposes of legal proof. The Roman bankers, like the Greek, usually managed payments from one client to another by alteration of the respective accounts.

Barbarians. BarbdrOs was originally the Greek epithet for a people speaking any language but Greek. It was not until after the Persian wars that the word began to carry with it associations of hatred and contempt, and to imply vulgarity and want of cultivation. The national feeling of the Greeks had then risen to such intensity, that they deemed themselves above all other peoples in gifts and culture, and looked down upon them with a sense of superiority.

The Romans were originally, like other non-Hellenic peoples, included by the Greeks under the name of barbaroi. But after the conquest of Greece, and the trans­ference of Hellenic art and culture to Rome, the Romans took up the same position as the Greeks before them, and designated as barbarians all the nations who differed in language and manners from the Grseco-Roman world.

Basil (Gr. BaslleiSs, Latin Basillus), surnamed the Great, of Caesarea in Cappa-docia. He was born of a noble family in 329 a.d., was educated in rhetoric at Athens by Libanius and Himerius, and subsequently took up the profession of advocate. But it was not long before he dedicated himself to the service of the Church. He distinguished himself especially by his resistance to Ari-anism, and the measures he adopted for regulating the monastic system. He died, the bishop of his native city, in A.D. 379. Besides his writings on points of doctrine, we have an address by him to young men on the uses of Greek literature, the study of which he earnestly recommended, in opposition to the prejudices of many Chris­tians. He has also left a collection of four hundred letters, which are models in their way. Among them are those addressed to Libanius, his pagan instructor.

Baslleus. The Greek word for king. On the ArchSn Basileus see akohontes. The name was also given to the toast-master in a drinking-bout. (See meals.)

Basilica (Gr. basilike or "King's House"). A state-building, used by the Romans as a hall of justice and a public meeting-place. The earliest basilica built at Rome was called the basilica Portia, after the famous M. Porcius Cato Censorius, who built it in B.C. 184, probably on the

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