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times. (See the comment, on Cic. pro Quinct. 4.) 2. The keeping of sums of money for other persons. Such money might be deposited by the owner merely to save himself the trouble of keeping it and making payments, and in this case it was called depositum; the argentarius then paid no interest, and the money was called vacua pe-cunia. When a payment was to be made, the owner either told the argentarius personally or he drew a cheque. (Plaut. Curcul. ii. 3. 66, &c., iii. 66, iv. 3. 3, &c.) Or the money was deposited on condition of the argentarins paying interest; in this case the money was called creditum^ and the argentarius might of course employ the money himself in any lucrative manner. (Suet. Aug. 39.) The argentarius thus did almost the same sort of business as a modern banker. Many persons entrusted all their capital to them (Cic. p. Caec. 6), and instances in which the argentarii made payments in the name of those whose money they had in hand, are mentioned very frequently. A payment made through a banker was called per men-sara, de mensa, or per mensae scripturam^ while a payment made by the debtor in person was a payment ex urea or de domo. (Plaut. Curcul. v. 3. 7, &c., 43, Captiv. ii. 3. 89 ; Cic. ad Att. i. 9, Top. 3 ; Schol. ad Horat. Sat. ii. 3. 69 ; Senec. JEpist. 26 ; Gaius, iii. 131.) An argentarius never paid away any person's money without being either authorised by him in person or receiving a cheque which was called perscriptio, and the payment was then made either in cash, or, if the person who was to receive it, kept an account with the same banker, he had it added in the banker's book to his own deposit. This was likewise calledperscribere or simply scribere. (Plaut. Asin. ii. 4. 30, &c., Cureul. v. 2. 20 ; Donat. ad Terent. Phorm. v. 7. 28, &c., ad Adelph. ii. 4. 13 ; Cic. ad Att. iv. 18, ix. 12, xii. 51, Philip, v. 4, in Verr. v. 19 ; Horat. Sat. ii. 3. 76.) It also occurs that argentarii made payments for persons who had not deposited any money with them ; this was equivalent to lending money, which in fact they often did for a certain per centage of interest. (Plaut. Cure. iv. 1. 19, 2. 22, True. i. 1. 51, &c., Epid. i. 2. 40 ; Tac. Ann. vi. 17.) Of all this business, of the receipts as well as of the expenditure, the argentarii kept accurate accounts in books called codices, tabulae or rationes (Plin. //. N. ii. 7), and there is every reason for believing that they were acquainted with what is called in bookkeeping double entry. When an argentarius settled his accounts with persons with whom he did business, it was done either in writing or orally, both parties meeting for the purpose (Dig. 2. tit. 14. s. 47. §1, 14. tit. 3. s. 20 ; Plant. Au-lul. iii. 5. 53, &c.), and the party found to be in debt paid what he owed, and then had his name effaced (nomen expedire or expungere) from the banker's books. (Plaut. Cist. i. 3. 41 ; Cic. ad Att. xvi. 6.) As the books of the argentarii were generally kept with great accuracy, and particularly in regard to dates, they were looked upon as documents of high authority, and were appealed to in the courts of justice as unexceptionable evidence. (Cic. p. Caec. 6 ; Gellius, xiv. 2.)_ Hence the argentarii were often concerned in civil cases, as money transactions were rarely concluded without their influence or co-operation. Their codices or tabulae could not be withheld from a person who in court referred to them for the purpose of
maintaining his cause, and to produce them was called edere (Dig. 2. tit. 13. s. 1. § 1), or proferre codicem (2. tit. 13. s. 6. §§ 7, 8). 3. Their connection with commerce and public auctions. This branch of their business seems to have been one of the most ancient. In private sales and purchases, they sometimes acted as agents for either party (interpreteSy Plaut. Cure. iii. i. 61), and sometimes they undertook to sell the whole estate of a person, as an inheritance. (Dig. 5. tit. 3. s. 18, 46. tit. 3. s. 88.) At public auctions they were almost invariably present, registering the articles sold, their prices, and purchasers, and receiving the payment from the purchasers. (Cic. p. Caec. 4, 6; Quinctil. xi. 2 ; Suet. Ner. 5 ; Gaius, iv. 126 ; Capitolin. Anton. 9.) At auctions, however, the argentarii might transact business through their clerks or servants, who were called coactores from their collecting the money. 4. The testing of the genuineness of coins (probatio nummorum). The frequent cases of forgery, as well as the frequent occurrence of foreign coins, rendered it necessary to have persons to decide upon their value, and the argentarii,. from the nature of their occupation, were best qualified to act as probatores ; hence they were present in this capacity at all payments of any large amount. This, however, seems originally to have been a part of the duty of public officers, the mensarii or nurnmularii, until in the course of time the opinion of an argentarius also came to be looked upon as decisive ; and this custom was sanctioned by a law of Marius Gratidianus. (Plin. ff. N. xxiii. 9 ; comp. Cic. ad Att. xii. 5 ; Dig. 46. tit. 3. s. 39..) 5. The solidorum venditio, that is, the obligation of purchasing from the mint the newly coined money, and circulating it among the people. This branch of their functions occurs only under the empire. (Symmach. JEpist. ix. 49 ; Procop. Anecd. 25 ; comp. Salmasius, De Usur. c. 17. p. 504.)
Although the argentarii were not in the service of the state, they existed only in a limited number, and formed a collegium, which was divided into societates or corporations, which alone had the right to admit new members of their guild. (Orelli, Jnscript. n. 913, 995.) It appears that no one but free men could become members of such a corporation, and whenever slaves are mentioned as argentarii, they must be conceived as acting only as servants, and in the name of their masters, who remained the responsible parties even if slaves had transacted business with their own peculium. (Dig. 2. tit. 13. s. 4. § 3, 14. tit. 3. s. 19.) With regard to the legal relation among the members of the corporations, there existed various regulations ; one member (socius), for example, was responsible for the other. (Auct. ad Herenn. ii. 13; Dig. 2. tit. 14. ss. 9, 25, 27.) They also enjoyed several privileges in the time of the empire, and Justinian, a particular patron of the argentarii, greatly increased these privileges (Justin. Nov. 136) ; but dishonest argentarii were always severely punished (Suet. Galb. 10 ; Auson. Epiyr. 15), and in the time of the emperors, they Avere under the superintendence of the praefectus urbi. (Dig. 1. tit. 12. s. 1. § 9.)
As regards the respectability of the argentarii, the passages of the ancients seem to contradict one another, for some writers speak of their occupation as respectable and honourable (Cic. p. Caec. 4 ; Aurel. Vict. 72; Suet. Vesp. 1 ; Acron. ad Horat.