The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

NUMMUS.

of manufacture the new coins were found to be a, little too light ; and as Solon's coinage furnished the standard for all subsequent ones, the error was retained ; and that, in fixing upon one-fourth as the amount of the reduction, Solon was guided by the wish of assimilating the Attic system to the Eubo'ic, which, according to this view, would be different from the old Attic. A more complete investigation of the subject has, however, convinced that dis­tinguished scholar that he was mistaken in sup­posing the Eubo'ic standard to be distinct from the old Attic, and that the true reason of the precise amount of debasement adopted by Solon ivas in order to bring his new system into a simple definite ratio, namety 3 : 5 to the Aeginetan, which the Pheidonian institutions had established throughout the greater part of Greece. (For the full development of the argument, see Bockh, Metrologische Untersuchungen, c. ix., and for the denominations and values of the Attic silver money, see drachma).

It was the boast of the Athenians that their coinage was finer than all other money in Greece, and Xenophon says that they exchanged it with profit in any market (Aristopli. Ran. 732 ; Xen. VecL iii. 2) : there is, however, a distinction to be made in this respect between the Attic coins of different ages, which are easily distinguished by their form and workmanship. The most ancient are very thick and extremely rude. The second kind, which appear to belong to the age of Pericles and Xenophon, are also of a thick form, but not so clumsy in appearance. The third, which belong to a later period, are broad and thin. Most of the extant specimens are of very fine silver. Some writers have supposed that they are quite free from baser metal ; but the experiments which have been made show that the finest possess a small quantity of alloy. Mr. Hussey found upon trial (Ancient Weights and Money, p. 45), that the most ancient Athenian coins contained about ^ of the weight alloy, the second kind about -g\j, and the more modern about -^ ; the last of which is nearly the same alloy as in our own silver coin.

The purity and full standard of the Attic silver money, and the commercial character of the people, will account easily for its wide diffusion throughout the Grecian states. It was adopted at an early period by Corinth and her colonies ; and thus was introduced into Sicily and Italy, where we find it, not only in the coins of Rhegium and Tarentum, but even in those of Populonia; but in most of these cases, it existed side by side with the Aeginetan stand­ard. It is also found in the later coins of Euboea and of Crete, and in those of Thasos and Acan­thus. It is probable that it prevailed extensively in the Ionian islands and cities of the Aegean Sea, but there are great difficulties connected with the coins of many of these states, and some of them (Chios, for example) seem to have had standards altogether distinct and peculiar. The Attic standard prevailed in Western Greece. The Thessalian confederacy had, at a late period, coins on the Attic scale ; and the money of some of the barba­rian nations of Eastern Europe appears to belong to the same standard. It also formed the basis of the later Macedonian coinage, having been adopted by Philip for gold [AunuM, stater], and by Alexander for silver. It was followed likewise by the Seleucidae in Syria, and by Philetaerus in Pergamus.

There are many other points connected with

813

NUMMUS.

Greek money in general, and with the systems of particular states, which cannot bo comprised within the limits of this article, but which are fully treated of in the works referred to at the end of it. The details of the minting of the money and the laws affecting it will be found under moneta.

ii. History of Roman and Italian Money. •— The earliest coinage at Rome was of copper. Its his­tory has been already given under As.

Silver was not coined at Rome till b. c. 269, five years before the first Punic war (Plin. //. N. xxxiii. 3. s. 13) ; but the Roman coinage of silver never appears to have been so free from baser metal as the best Athenian coinage. Under the Emperor Gal-lienus, the coinage was so much debased that it contained ^ silver and £ alloy. In the time of the republic the impression on silver coins was usually, on the obverse, the head of Rome with a helmet, the Dioscuri, or the head of Jupiter ; and on the reverse, carriages drawn by two or four animals (bigae, quadrigae), whence they were called respec­tively bigati and quadrigati, sc. nummi. The prin­cipal silver coins among the Romans were the denarius and sestertius. [denarius, sester­tius.] Respecting the Roman gold money, see aurum.

Among the interesting matters which are here passed over for want of space, and as not of great importance for the ordinary classical student, are the fuller discussion of the early systems of the other states of. Italy besides Rome, and the descrip • tion of the coins of the later empire. On the for­mer subject, the reader is referred to Miillcr<>s Etrusker, and Abeken's Mittelitalien, on the latter to Eckhel.

iii. Connection of the Greek and Roman Systems in Sicily and Lower Italy. — For the reasons just assigned, some very brief remarks must suffice for this part of the subject, though it is one of the most interesting in the whole range of numis­matics. It is also, however, one of the most difficult, and its full discussion would require a, separate work of no small dimensions. We find in Sicily and Lower Italy all the three chief sys­tems which prevailed in Greece, and also the Italian system, not kept distinct,-but brought into connection ; besides a system which may be called specifically Sikelian, as it is not found else­where, and besides also the Carthaginian system, Of the three systems imported from Greece, the Aeginetan was naturally brought by the colo­nists from Corinth and Rhodes, who were the chief Dorian settlers in Sicily ; the Eubo'ic was similarly introduced by the Chalcidian colonists, and also from Corinth ; and the Attic was im­ported through commerce, both directly and by way of Corinth. The Italian is supposed by Bockh to have been introduced by the commercial activity of the Etruscans at a very early period. Undoubted evidence of the existence of the last system is furnished by the very words \irpa and ovyida, which it is impossible to explain otherwise than as being the Italian libra and uncia. It'is important to observe that we have here a mixture, not only of different standards of weight and money, but also of different systems of arithmetical computation, the mixed decimal and duodecimal system of the Greeks coming into collision with the purely duodecimal system of the Italians.

In adapting these systems to one another, it would seem that the pound of the Italian system

Pages
About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index

812

813

814
letter/word  
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.