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Article

inflation  

Colin P. Elliott

Inflation typically refers to rising prices. In both ancient and modern societies, inflation is sometimes difficult to identify, measure, and explain with precision. Inflation can occur in the prices of individual goods, the goods and services associated with a particular industry or sector of an economy, or as a macro-phenomenon in which all or most prices in an economy rise. The magnitude of price rises and the duration during which prices stay elevated also have a bearing on how inflation is studied. The ancient world witnessed periods of both slow and steady inflation as well as punctuated surges in prices. Some regions, such as Egypt, offer hundreds of prices, which facilitate quantitative measurements of inflation. In many areas and periods, however, inflation is poorly understood because sufficient numbers of prices do not survive. Scholars, therefore, often use theoretical models and proxy evidence to better understand the nuances and complexity of inflation in classical antiquity.

Article

money  

Colin P. Elliott

Money is any object that is used as a medium of exchange, but moneys often also function as stores of value, accounting units, and means for making payments. Through the use of physical money—especially coinage stamped with symbols of society, state, and the divine—individuals were connected to a wider framework composed of strangers, governments, deities, and customs.1 In classical antiquity, money comprised a range of materials and goods, both physical and virtual, and these moneys performed a variety of economic, social, and cultural functions. Money was issued by different polities and powers, mostly by states but also by economic and religious elites and institutions.Aristotle insists that money use arose out of barter—certainly a possibility, although the archaeological record is ambiguous at best. The earliest known coin hoard, dated to the mid to late 7th centurybce and found in western Asia Minor, contains standardized globules of electrum which are both stamped (“coins”) and unstamped, giving credence to Aristotle’s claim that early coins “had a certain stamp, to save the trouble of weighing, and to express its value” (Arist.

Article

technology  

Lynne Lancaster

The term “technology” comes from the ancient Greek τέχνη, techne, meaning “art, skill, craft.” In modern practice, definitions of technology often vary according to the discipline and era under examination. Concepts used to study modern technology can be of use in framing questions about technology in antiquity, but along with the methodology one risks adopting modern assumptions that are not necessarily valid for pre-industrial societies. For example, the concept of “progress” has underlain much modern evaluation of ancient technology. It can be found in some ancient writings on science and philosophy, but nowadays it also comes with the post-Enlightenment baggage of having been used in theoretical debates justifying imperialist goals.1 Moreover, modern notions of “progress” are linked with the idea of technological determinism, a theory that assumes that technical progress was a natural path of development towards the Industrial Revolution. Those societies not reaching this goal have often been considered economically and technologically stunted by some fundamental internal flaw.

Article

economy, Hellenistic  

Zosia Archibald

Alexander the Great’s empire, which stretched from the Danube and the western shore of the Black Sea in the north to the Indus valley and Indian Ocean in the east, did not survive his death. Competition among his successors involved almost constant warfare, strategies to secure desirable commodities, and a nearly insatiable need for cash reserves. Whereas the founders of the new kingdoms were predominantly cavalrymen, the soldiers of succeeding generations were armed settlers and frontiersmen. The technology of warfare also underwent rapid changes at the start of the Hellenistic era, when siege machinery and artillery were introduced. Maintaining empires required different armies and resources, bringing wealth to countryside as well as city.The organizational template created by cities in the 4th century bce provided an efficient and flexible model of economic as well as social organization that enabled cities of all cultural and linguistic origins to become focal points of economic expansion under the kingdoms of .

Article

debasement, monetary  

Colin P. Elliott

Most currency systems in classical antiquity used precious metals at standardized weights and/or fineness. Debasement describes reductions in currency standards, whether such reductions were openly declared or hidden, or whether they were enacted by legitimate minting authorities or counterfeiters. Some debasements may have been unintentional, the result of imprecisions in the minting process. Often, however, debasements were carried out on purpose and for a wide range of reasons—in response to crises such as wars or famines, or as part of a larger economic or monetary reform. Contemporary responses to debasements varied. Coin-users and money specialists developed techniques to assess the quality of coins. Some polities enacted legal tender laws—sometimes to discourage the use of debased counterfeit coins, but often to require the use of legitimate coinage after it had been debased. The scholarly study of changes in coin standards continues to provide insights into both the practical workings of ancient monetary systems and the abstract notions of value, acceptability, and other embedding frameworks that governed the use of ancient coinage.

Article

Monetary History of East Asia  

Ulrich Theobald

East Asian monetary systems were traditionally based on commodity monies, the most famous of which were round copper coins (Cash) with a square central hole, and silver ingots (Tael, from around 1000 ce). While issue of the former was in the hand of the state, silver bars were privately produced and controlled. The Tael nonetheless served as a unit of account also in government ledgers. China was the first nation worldwide to use paper money backed by bullion reserve (c. 1000–1500), but fiat monies were not readily accepted by markets. Gold coins were exclusively used in Japan from circa 1600. With the discovery of Mexican silver, China and Japan became part of the silver-based world economy. Japan adopted the Gold Standard in 1897 and gained access to the world’s financial markets, while China’s currency landscape, even after modernization, remained fragmented and decentralized. With a favorable exchange rate against the US$, Japan recovered after World War II. The US$ devaluation in the Plaza Accord 1985 did not stop that boom. Excessive loans induced the asset price bubble of 1987. In the “lost decade” until 2000, the Bank of Japan pursued a volatile monetary policy, so in 1998 it was necessary to induce liberalization of the banking sector. Reform in the financial sector was also begun in South Korea after the Asian Crisis of 1997. The Chinese policy of Reform and Opening in 1978 first led to inflation and then to undervaluation of the Renminbi (Yuan), which supported the unique economic growth. The currency was made convertible in 1996 and was in 2005 pegged to a basket of foreign currencies. China’s banking system remains underdeveloped and suffers from the burden of indebted state-owned enterprises. China has accumulated huge amounts of foreign exchange. The RMB might become an anchor currency of a financial regionalism.

Article

coinage, Roman  

Michael Crawford

There are two related stories about Roman coinage: the one of its internal evolution, and the other of its progressive domination of the Mediterranean world, its use throughout the Roman empire, and finally its fragmentation into the coinages of the successor kingdoms in the west and the Byzantine empire in the east.Rome under the kings and in the early republic managed without a coinage, like the other communities of central Italy, with the episodic exception of some Etruscan cities; *bronze by weight, aes rude (see aes), with a pound of about 324 g. (11.5 oz.) as the unit, served as a measure of value, no doubt primarily in the assessment of fines imposed by a community in the process of substituting public law for private retribution; this stage of Roman monetary history is reflected in the *Twelve Tables. The progressive extension of Roman hegemony over central Italy brought booty in the form of *gold, *silver, and bronze; the means to create a coinage on the Greek model were at hand.

Article

The Development of Early Historic Urbanism in South Asia  

Reshma Sawant

Two phases of urbanism are identified in the South Asian context: the first one is the Mature Harappan phase (c. 2500–1900 bce) and the second one is the Early Historic phase (c. 600 bce–300 ce). The latter phase of urbanism has its roots in the preceding Protohistoric cultural phases. The gradual developments in various facets of the society, such as polity, social setup, subsistence strategies, settlement size and hierarchy, crafts and industries, and trade and exchange, during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic (non-Harappan) and Iron Age phases appear to have subsequently culminated into Early Historic urbanism in South Asia. Scholarship on the subject has proposed various theories to explain the genesis of the second urbanism, which include technologically deterministic explanations citing the introduction of iron in South Asia and its repercussions that resulted in drastic changes between 1200 and 600 bce. These multivariate explanations identify technological advancements, technology-based diversification of activities, and growing complexity of socioeconomic organizations as the causal factors behind the Early Historic urbanism. As is evident in the archaeological context, the transformation of wider spatial urban morphology, characterized by differential velocity and magnitude, occurred during different time periods in different parts of South Asia. However, by the beginning of the current era, in around c. 100–200 ce, it can be said that most of the South Asia had experienced growth of urbanism. The process of Early Historic urbanism in South Asia from between the 6th century bce and the 3rd century ce can be divided into three phases: Phase 1: The period around the 6th century bce witnessed the emergence of the first urban polities in South Asia known as the Janapada, organized under a ruling class of Janapadins. These Janapadas were ruled by twofold constitutions: Rajya (monarchical) and Gana or Sanghas (non-monarchical). Among these polities, the four monarchies of Kosala, Vatsa, Magadha, and Avanti emerged as notable rivals contending for internal supremacy. By the 4th century bce, Magadha arose supreme. The period 600–300 bce is characterized by an early phase of fortification in South Asia involving mud and stone ramparts, and ditch or moat building at a few sites like Charsada, Kausambi, Rajghat, Rajagriha, Champa, Adam, and Ujjain. There is substantial evidence of civic planning in these settlements, such as for the construction of streets, lanes, brick and ring wells, and drainage systems. There is also extensive evidence of burnt-brick structures, early coinage (bent bars, punch-marked coins [PMCs], and uninscribed cast copper coins) and script, apart from the widespread distribution of the identifying ceramic style: the Northern Black Polished Ware. It can be argued that these changes in socioeconomic conditions and urbanism may have in fact contributed to the formation and rise of institutional religious sects like Buddhism and Jainism. Phase 2: This period of urbanism in early South Asia can be dated to between 300 and 100 bce, marked by rise of the Mauryas. This stage was characterized by the steady expansion of trade with the western world, evidenced in the proliferation of Mauryan PMCs that are found all over South Asia, indicating the presence of vibrant political and economic interactions across the larger geographical region. The presence of Mauryan courtly culture and art can be seen reflected in the technological sophistication of the polished surfaces of Asokan pillars and the various distinct animal capitals that may indicate Persian, Greek, and Achaemenid influence. The patronage that Buddhism gained among royalty, trading communities, and masses is more than evident in the various donator inscriptions that can be seen at monuments like Sanchi. The rules regarding social status and the concept of wealth seem to have been liberal, with Buddhism providing much-needed impetus in facilitating long-distance trade through their encouragement of traders to undertake long journeys. The earliest script of South Asia is the Brahmi script and the earliest acceptable evidence of Brahmi can be found in the Asokan inscriptions. However, in the past few years, new data have emerged from Peninsular India and Sri Lanka (from the sites of Porunthal, Vallam, Alagnkulam, Uraiyur, Karur, Kodumanal, and Anuradhapuram) that indicate evidence of Brahmi script that can now be dated from as early as the 6th century bce to the 4th century bce. Phase 3: The rise of the Kushanas, Sakas, Kshtrapas, Satavahanas, Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas, and their active presence in South Asia from c. 100 bce to 300 ce, brought significant changes to the urban aspects of life. This period is characterized by extensive construction activity, complex burnt-brick buildings, well laid-out streets and drains, and fortification walls; further characterized by the adoption of new techniques of tiled flooring and roofing, extensive coinage, remarkable developments in the fields of art and architecture, knowledge production, and organized religions. Under the rule of the Kushanas and the Satavahanas, hinterland as well as the maritime trade networks grew manifold. Maritime trade with Mediterranean and Southeast Asia is quite extensively evident within archaeological findings. Another commonality between the Kushanas and Satavahanas is their patronization of Buddhism that resulted in the impressive development of art and architecture. The Gandhara and the Mathura schools of art, the rock-cut Buddhist viharas in the western Deccan, and the construction of various stupas in Sanchi, Bharhut, Nagarjunakonda, Amaravati, and Kanaganahalli, are all excellent examples of flourishing Buddhism under the Kushanas and Satavahanas. These impressive social and political complexities arose from the financial demands of maritime and overland trade, and were not necessarily the consequence of mere territorial expansion. To summarize, Early Historic urbanism in South Asia is manifested through complex polities that took the form of cities and states characterized by architectural advancement in both secular and non-secular structures, the use of baked bricks, and ring wells. Early Historic urbanism was also characterized by technological advancements in the form of various craft industries and the extensive use of metal (iron and copper), along with the development of a complex system of recording, measurement, accounting, and other sciences due to an advancement in scripts, coinage, astronomy, and mathematics. Long-distance trade led to the introduction and intensification of new religious movements (Buddhism and Jainism) that in turn contributed to the development of philosophy, art, and architecture, and. ultimately, to the rise of a ruling class.

Article

Silver Trade and Transportation in the Spanish Atlantic  

Leonardo Moreno-Álvarez

Silver was the lifeblood of Spain’s early modern transatlantic empire. Transatlantic silver transfers affected the nature of shipping, credit, and trade in the Iberian Atlantic and, eventually, across the entire globe. Large-scale silver mining in Mexico and Perú began in the mid-16th century. To sustain trade and bullion transportation across the Atlantic, the Castilian Crown developed a convoy system known as the Carrera de Indias. This system of armed fleets that sailed between authorized ports on a regular schedule began in the 1560s and peaked between 1580 and 1620. During this period, Spanish silver peso coins of eight reales (known in English as pieces of eight) became a de facto international monetary standard because of their high proportion of high-purity metal. Silver circulated in the American colonies before departing for Spain, whether through trade or inter-colonial transfers. Bullion and coins also moved through channels beyond the Castilian monarchy’s control, most notably through unregistered remittances and unauthorized trade with other European interlopers. During the Habsburg era, the Castilian monarchy’s obligations to foreign bankers, particularly the Genoese, increased. By the 1650s, the convoy system’s efficacy, as well as the profitability of several mines, had significantly diminished. Although mining production slowly recovered during the second half of the century, silver smuggling out of Spanish American ports further reduced the volume of bullion remittances going through authorized channels. After 1720, the combined effect of administrative reforms, increased production in American mines, and the resurgence of Spanish power under the Bourbons revitalized transatlantic bullion transfers. The last peak in silver transfers from the New World to the Old began in 1780 and lasted until 1808, when the beginning of independence movements across the Spanish Americas dissolved the world’s largest monetary union. Estimates of the total volume of metal remittances and their effects on the global economy have been subject of historical debates for almost a century.