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Page 6

Athenian Money-changers and Bankers

 

    An important factor in the commerce of Athens is the "Money-changer." There is no one fixed standard of coinage for Greece, let alone the Barbarian world. Athens strikes its money on a standard which has very wide acceptance, but Corinth has another standard, and a great deal of business is also transacted in Persian gold darics. The result is that at the Peiræus and near the Agora are a number of little "tables" where alert individuals, with strong boxes beside them, are ready to sell foreign coins to would-be travelers, or exchange darics for Attic drachmæ, against a pretty favorable commission.

    This was the beginning of the Athenian banker; but from being a mere exchanger he has often passed far beyond, to become a real master of credit and capital. There are several of these highly important gentlemen who now have a business and fortune equal to that of the famous Pasion, who died in 370 B.C. While the firm of Pasion and Company was at its height, the proprietor derived a net income of at least 100 minæ (over $1,800 [1914] or $30,248.07 [2000]) per year from his banking; and more than half as much extra from a shield factory.[7]

 

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