The starting-point of the Roman moneyed economy was of course
money-lending; and no branch of commercial industry was more
zealously prosecuted by the Romans than the trade of the professional
money-lender (-fenerator-) and of the money-dealer or banker (-argent
arius-). The transference of the charge of the larger monetary
transactions from the individual capitalists to the mediating banker,
who receives and makes payments for his customers, invests and borrows
money, and conducts their money dealings at home and abroad--which is
the mark of a developed monetary economy--was already completely
carried out in the time of Cato.
The bankers, however, were not only
the cashiers of the rich in Rome, but everywhere insinuated themselves
into minor branches of business and settled in ever-increasing numbers
in the provinces and dependent states. Already throughout the whole
range of the empire the business of making advances to those who
wanted money began to be, so to speak, monopolized by the Romans.