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ARGENTARII.

to Home, and occupied the Capitoline, or, as it was anciently called, Saturnian hill. It is impossible to say what is the historical value or meaning of this legend ; we may, however, notice its conformity with the statement that Rome was founded by the Pelasgians, with whom the name of Argos was connected. (Varr. L. L. v. 45, ed. Miiller ; Ov. Fast. iii. 791 ; Gell. x. 15 ; Niebuhr, Rom. Hist. vol. i. p. 214.)

The name argei was also given to certain figures thrown into the Tiber from the Sublician bridge, on the Ides of May in every year. This was done by the pontifices, the vestals, the praetors, and other citizens, after the performance of the customary sacrifices. The images were thirty in number, made of bulrushes, and in the form of men (et'ScoAa avdp£iice\a,priscorMm siimdacra mro- rum). Ovid makes various suppositions to account for the origin of this rite ; we can only conjecture that it was a symbolical offering to propitiate the gods, and that the number was a representative either of the thirty patrician curiae at Rome, or perhaps of the thirty Latin townships. Dionysius of Halicarnassus states (i. 19, 38) that the .custom continued to his times, and was instituted by Her- cules to satisfy the scruples of the natives when he abolished the human sacrifices formerly made to Saturn. (Varr. L. L. vii. 44 ; Ov. Fast, v. 621; Plut. Quaest. Rom. p. 102, Reiske ; Arnold, Rom. Hist. vol. i. p. 67 ; Bun sen and Platner, Beschrei- lung Roms, vol. i. p. 688—702.) [R. W.J

ARGENTARII (rpaTreCnrai), bankers or money changers. 1. greek. The bankers .at Athens were called Tp«7r€0Tat from their tabbs (r/3a?re£cu) at which they sat, while carrying on their business. Public or state banks seem to have been a thing unknown in antiquity, though the state must have exercised some kind of super­intendence, since without it it is scarcely possible to conceive how persons could have placed such unlimited confidence in the bankers, as they are known to have done at Athens. They had their stands or tables in the market place (Plat. Apol. p. 17, Hipp. Min. p. 368), and although the bank­ing and money changing business was mostly carried on by ugtoikoi, or resident aliens and freed-men, still these persons do not seem to have been looked upon with any disrespect, and the business itself was not disreputable. Their principal occu­pation was that of changing mon>y at ;an agio (Isocrat. Trapez. 21 ; Dem. De fids. Leg. p. 376, c. Polyd. p. 1218 ; Pollux, iii, 84, vii. 170) ; but they frequently took money, at a moderate pre­mium, from persons who did not like to occupy themselves with the management of their own affairs. Thus the father of Demosthenes, e. g., kept a part of his capital in the hands of bankers. (Dem. c. Aphol). i. p. 816.) These persons then lent the money with profit to others, and thus, to a certain degree, obtained possession of a monopoly. The greater part of the capital with which they did business in this way, belonged to others (Dem. p. Phorm. p. 948), hut sometimes they also em­ployed capital of their own. Although their sole object was pecuniary gain (Dem. p. Phorm. p. 953), and not by any means to connect themselves with wealthy or illustrious families, yet they acquired great credit at Athens, and formed business con­nections in all the principal towns of Greece, whereby their business was effectually supported. (Den, p. Pkorm. p. 958, c. Polyd. p. 1224.) They

ARGENTARii.

even maintained so great a reputation that not only were they considered as secure merely by virtue of their calling, but such confidence was placed in them, that sometimes business was transacted with them without witnesses (Isocr. Trapez. 2), and that money and contracts of debt were deposited with them, and agreements were concluded or can­celled in their presence, (Dem. c. Callip. p. 1243, c. Dionysod. p. 1287.) The great importance of their business is clear from the immense wealth of Pasion, whose bank produced a net annual profit of 100 minae. (Dem. p. Phorm. p. 946.) There are, however, instances of bankers losing every­thing they possessed, and becoming utterly bank-nipt. (Dem. p. Plwrm. p. 9.59, c. Stepk. i. p. 1120.) That these bankers took a high interest when they lent out money, scarcely needs any proof, their loans on the deposits of goods are sufficient evi­dence. (Dem. c. Nicostr. p. 1249.) Their usual interest was 36 per cent., an interest that scarcely occurs any where except in cases of money lent on bottomry. The only instance of a bank recognized and conducted on behalf of the state occurs at Byzantium, where at one time it was let by the republic to capitalists to farm. (Arist. Oecon. ii. p. 283; comp. Bdckh, Publ. Econom. of Athens, p. 126., &c. 2d edit.)

2. roman. The Argentarii at Rome were also called aryenteae mensae escercitores^ argenti dis-tractores and negotiatores stipis argentariae. (Orelli, Inscript. n. 4060.) They must be distinguished from the mensarii or public bankers, though even the ancients .confound the terms, as the mensarii sometimes did the same kind of business as the argentarii, and they must also be distinguished from the nummularii. [mensarii ; nummu-larii.] The argentarii were private persons, who carried on business on their own responsibility, and were .not in the service of the republic ; but the shops or tabernae which they occupied and in which they transacted their business about the forum, were state property. (Dig. 18. tit. 1. s. 32 ; Liv. xl. 51.) As their chief business was that of changing money, the argentarii probably existed at Rome from very early times, as the in­tercourse of the Romans with other Italian nations could not well exist without them ; the first men­tion, however, of their existing at Rome and having their shops or stalls around the forum, oc­curs about b. c. 350, in the wars against the Sam-nites. (Liv. vii. 21.) The business of the argen­tarii, with which that of the mensarii coincided in many points, was very varied, and comprised almost every thing connected with money or mer­cantile transactions, but it may be divided into the following branches. 1. Permutatio^ or the exchange of foreign coin for Roman coin, in which case a small agio (collybus) was paid to them. (Cic. in Verr. iii. 78.) In later times when the Romans became acquainted with the Greek custom of using bills of exchange, the Roman argentarii, e. g., received sums of money which had to be paid at Athens, and then drew a bill payable at Athens by some banker in that city. This mode of transacting business is likewise called permutatio (Cic. ad Att. xii. 24, 27, xv. 15 ; eomp. v. 15, xi. 1, 24, ad Fam.ii.17, iii. 5, ad Quint. Frat. i. 3, p. Ra-hir. 14), and rendered it necessary for the argen­tarii to be acquainted with the current value of the same coin in different places and at different

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