sábado, 25 de septiembre de 2010


ARGENTA'RII (Tpaire(>ai), bankers or money changers. 1. Greek. The bankers at Athens were called Tpa*t(lTai from their tables (rpdirtfa) 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. Mia. p. 368), and although the banking and money changing business was mostly carried on by /mtoikoi, or resident aliens and frccdmen, 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 money at an agio (Isocrat Trapez. 21 ; Dem. De fals. Leg. p. 376, e. Polycl. 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. p., kept a part of his capital in the hands of bankers. (Dem. c. Aphob. 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. J'horm. p. 948), but sometimes they also employed capital of their own. Although their sole object was pecuniary gain (Dem. p. Pkorm. p. 953), and not by any means to connect themselves with wealthy or illustrious families, yet they acquired great credit at Athena, and formed business connections in all the principal towns of Greece, whereby their business was effectually supported. (Dem. p. Pkorm. p. 958, cPolgd. p. 1224.) They

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, nnd agreements were concluded or cancelled in their presence. (Dem. e. CaUip. 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 minne. (Dem. p. Phorm. p. 946.) There are, however, instances of bankers losing everything they possessed, nnd becoming utterly bankrupt (Dem. p. Phorm. p. 959, c. Stcph. 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. iL p. 283; comp. Bockh, Putt. Eeonom. of Alliens, p. 126, &c 2d edit.)
2. Roman. The A rgentarii at Rome were also called argenteae mensae exercitores, argenti distractores and negotiators 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 nummularis [mensarii; NummuLarh.] 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 tabemae 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 Samnites. (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; comp. v. 15, xl 1, 24, ad Fam. ii. 17, iii. 5, ad Quint. Frat. i. 3, p. Rabir. 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 tiiaes. (See the comment, an Cic pro Qtamct. 4.) 2. The keeping of sums of money for other per* ions. Such money might he deposited by the owner merely to are himself the trouble of keeping it and making payments, and in this ewe it was called dtpomitmm ; the argentariui then paid no interest, and the money was called vaema peani When a payment was to be made, the owner either told the argentarhu personally or he drew a cheque. (PlmuL ('ureal ii. 3. 66, etc, iii. 66, It. 3. 3, &c) Or the money was deposited on condition of the argentarins paying interest; in this case the money was called cmtfinsss, and the argenarias might of coarse employ the money himself in any lucrative manner. (Suet Aug. 39.) The argentarins thus did almost the same sort of business as a modern banker. Many persons entrusted all their capital to them (Cic p. Gate. 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 ssea■sam, lit see&so, or per msmsoe scrtpraram, while a payment made by the debtor in person was a payment a area or da dome. (Plant. Curat/, v. 3. T, Ac, 43, Captn. ii. 3. 89 ; Cic ad AU. i. 9, Tap. 3 ; Scboi. ad HoraL Sat. ii. 3. 69 ; Senec EpuL 26 ; Gains, iii. 131.) An argentarins never paid away any person's money without being either authorised by him in person or receiving a cheque which was called perweriptio, 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 m the banker's book to his own deposit This was likewise called peneribere or simply tcribrrt. (Plant An. ii. 4. 30, Ac, Curad. v. 2. 20 ; Donat ad TeremL Pkorm. v. 7. 23, Ac, ad Adelpk. ii. 4. 13 ; Cic ad Alt iv. 18, ix. 12, xii. 5), Philip, v. 4, m Yerr. v. 19 ; Horat SaL 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 met they often did for a certain per centage of interest (Plant Care, iv. 1. 19, 2. 22, True. i. 1. 51, Ac, Epid. i. 2. 40 ; Toe. Ann. vi 17.) Of all this business, of the receipts as well as of the expenditure, the argentarii kept accurate accounts in books caQed codices, tabmiae or ratumet (Plin. //. A*, 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 AuU. iii. 5. 53, Ac), and the party found to be in debt paid what be owed, and then bad his name effaced (nomen erpedire or e*7xa»ff£re) from the bankers books. (Phut. Cist. L 8. 41 ; Cic ad AU, xvL 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 ; Gellina, xiv. 2.) Hence tie an/entam were often concerned in civil cases, a» money transactions were rarely concluded without their inSaenoe or co-operation. Their codices or abuse amid not be withheld from a person who a court referred, to than for the purpose of

maintaining his cause, and to produce them was callededert (Dig. 2. tit 13. s. 1. g I), or proferre codieem (2. tit 13. a 6. g§ 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 (imltrpntu. Phut Cure, iii. 1. 61), and sometimes they undertook to sell the whole estate of a person, as an inheritance. (Dig. A. tit 3, s. 18, 46. tit 3 a 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. Cbee 4, 6 • Quinctil. xL 2 ; Suet A'er. 6 ; Gams, iv. 126 ; Capitotin. Aniom. 9.) At auctions, however, the argentarii might transact business through their clerks or sen-ants, who were called eoactoret from their collecting the money. 4. The testing of the genuineness of coins (probatio nummorum). The frequent cases of forgery, as wall 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 nummnlarii, 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 Oratidianua. (Plin. //. A", xxiii. 9 ; com p. Cic ad AU. xii. 5 ; Dig. 46. tit 3. s. 39.) 5. The wUdorum rWioo, 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. (Symroach. Epiet. iz. 49 ; Procop. Anted. 26 ; com p. Salmasius, LH (/nr. 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 Kcutatet or corporations, which alone had the right to admit new members of their guild. (Orelli, IntcripU 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 peeulium. (Dig. 2. tit 13. s. 4. § 3, 14. tit 3. a. 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 Herem. 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. Aror. 136) ; but dishonest argentarii were always severely punished (Suet Galli. 10 ; Auson. Epiffr. 15), and in the time of the emperors, they were under the superintendence of the praefectus urbi. (Dig. 1. tit 12. a. 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 ; Aurcl. Vict 72 j Suet Veep. 1 j Acron. ad Horat Sat. i. 6. 86), while others speak of them with contempt (Plant Cure, iv. 2. 20, damn. Prol. 25, &c.; Trueul. i. 1. 47) ; but this contradiction maybe easily reconciled by distinguishing between a lower and a higher class of argentarii. A wealthy argentarius who carried on business on a large scale, was undoubtedly as much a person of respectability as a banker in modern times; but others who did business only on a small scale, or degraded their calling by acting as usurers, can-" not have been held in any esteem. It has already been observed that the argentarii had their shops round the forum (Liv. ix. 40, xxvi. 11,27; Plaut True. i. 1. 61 ; Terent Pliorm. v. 8. 28, Adelph. it 4.13); hence to become bankrupt, was expressed by foro cedere, or abire, or foro mergi. (Plaut Kpid. i. 2. 16; Dig. 16. tit 3. s. 7. § 2.) The shops or booths were public property, and built by the censors, who sold the use of them to the argentarii (Liv. xxxix. 44, xl. 51, xli. 27, xliv. 16; comp. J. G. Sicber, Dissertat. de Argentariis, Lipsiae, 1737 ; H. Hubert, Disput. juridical III. de Argentaria velerum, Trajcct. 1739; W. T. Kraut, De Argentariis et Nummularis, Gottingen, 1826.) [L.8.]

ARGENTUM (ipyupos), silver, one of the two metals which, on account of their beauty, their durability, their density, and their rarity, have been esteemed in all civilised countries, and in all ages, as precious, and which have, on account of the above qualities and the facility of working them, been used for money. The ancients were acquainted with silver from the earliest known periods. (Pliny ascribes its discovery to Erichthonius or to Aeacus, //. A'', vii. 56. s. 57.) It is constantly mentioned in Homer; but in a manner which proves that it was comparatively scarce. It was much more abundant in Asia than in Greece Proper, where there were not many silver mines. The accounts we have of the revenues of the early Lydian and Persian kings, and of the presents of some of them, such as Gyges and Croesus, to Pytho and other shrines, prove the great abundance of both the precious metals in "Western Asia. Of this wealth, however, a very large proportion was laid up in the royal and sacred treasuries, both in Asia and in Greece. But in time, and chiefly by the effects of wars, these accumulations were dispersed, and the precious metals became commoner and cheaper throughout Greece. Thus, the spoils of the Asiatics in the Persian wars, and the payment of Greek inercennri 's by the Persian kings, the expenditure of Pericles on war and works of art, the plunder of the temple of Delphi by the Phocians, the military expenses and wholesale bribery of Philip, and, above all, the conquests of Alexander, caused a vast increase in the amount of silver and gold in actual circulation. The accounts we have of the treasures possessed by the successors of Alexander would be almost incredible if they were not perfectly well attested.
It was about this time also that the riches of the East began to be familiar to the Romans, among whom the precious metals were, in early times, extremely rare. Very little of them was found in Italy; and though Cisalpine Gaul furnished some gold, which was carried down by the Alpine torrents, it contained but a very small proportion of silver. The silver mines of Spain had been wrought by the Carthaginians at a very early period ; and from this source, as well as

from the East, the Romans no doubt obtained most of their silver aB an article of commerce. But when first Spain and then Greece, Asia Minor, and Syria, were brought beneath the Roman power, they obtained that abundant supply both of silver and gold which formed the instrument of the extravagance and luxury of the later republic and the empire. " The value' of the precious metals did not, however, fall in proportion to their increase, as large quantities, wrought for works of art, were taken out of circulation." (Bockh.)
The relative value of gold and silver differed considerably at different periods in Greek and Roman history. Herodotus mentions it (iii. 95) as 13 to 1 ; Plato (Hipp. c. 6. p. 231), as 12 to 1; Menander (ap. Palluc. ix. 76), as 10 to 1 ; and Livy (xxxviii. 11), as 10 to 1, about B.C. 189. According to Suetonius (Jul. Caet. 54), Julius Caesar, on one occasion, exchanged silver for gold in the proportion of 9 to 1 ; but the most usual proportion under the early Roman emperors was about 12 to 1; and from Constantine to Justinian about 14 to 1, or 15 to I. The proportion in modern times, since the discovery of the American mines, has varied between 17 to 1 and 14 to 1.
Silver Mines and Ores. — In the earliest times the Greeks obtained their silver chiefly as an article of commerce from the Phocaeans and the Saniians; but they soon began to work the rich mines of their own country and its islands. The chief mines were in Siphnos, Thessaly, and Attica. In the last-named country, the silver mines of I.an rum furnished a most abundant supply, and were generally regarded as the chief source of the wealth of Athens. We learn from Xcnophon (Yectig. iv. 2), that these mines had been worked in remote antiquity ; and Xcnophon speaks of them ns if he considered them inexhaustible. In the time of Demosthenes, however, the profit arising from them had greatly diminished; and in the second century of the Christian era they were no longer worked. (Pans. i. 1. § 1.) The Romans obtained most of their silver from the very rich mines of Spain, which had been previously worked by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and which, though abandoned for those of Mexico, are still not exhausted. The ore from which the silver was obtained was called silver earth (apyvptris frj, or simply apyvpiris, Xen. Vectig. i. 5, iv. 2). The same term (terra) was also applied to the ore by the Romans.
A full account of all that is known respecting the ores of silver known to the ancients, their mining operations, and their processes for the reduction of the ores, is given by Bockh. (Dissertation on the Silver Mines of Laurion, §§ 3, 4, 5.)
Uses of Silver. — By far the most important use of silver among the Greeks was for money. It was originally the universal currency in Greece. Mr. Knight, however, maintains (Prol. Horn.) that gold was coined first because it was the more readily found, and the more easily worked; but there are sufficient reasons for believing that, until some time after the end of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians had no gold currency. [AuBum.j It may be remarked here that all the words connected with money are derived from ipyvpos, and not from xpwr6t, as Karapyvp6a>, " to bribe wi th money;" ipyvpapoiG6s, " a moneychanger," &c; and apyvpos is itself not unfrequently used to signify money in general (Soph,
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