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date: 02 December 2020

bankslocked

  • Paul C. Millett

Extract

In antiquity banks supplied a selection of the services familiar from their modern counterparts. None the less, the essential banking function, receipt of deposits which might then be lent at interest to a different set of customers, appears only fleetingly in ancient texts (Dem. 36. 11). Many temples, both Greek and Roman (e.g. *Apollo on *Delos, *Castor and Pollux at Rome) took deposits and even lent money; but deposits remained untouched and cash was lent from the temple's own funds. Similarly, moneylenders who lent from their own resources, even on a regular basis, were not bankers; nor were usurers, specializing in short-term, high-interest loans of small sums—the common Greek term is obolostatēs (‘a lender of obols’). Banking in the Greek world appears to have evolved out of professional money-changing: a response to the multiplicity of state coinages (trapezitēs or ‘banker’ refers to the trapeza or changer's table). Changers, and presumably bankers, existed all over the Classical and Hellenistic Greek worlds, but our knowledge is concentrated in Athens, where, from the 4th cent. bce, the names are known of some twenty bankers.

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