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abundantly realized. Mr. Lamb, therefore, has judged not wrongly in thinking that a new translation, founded on this greatly improved edition, would be a valuable and an acceptable contribution to American scholarship. The translation of Sir G. C. Lewis, published in London some years since, was of course based on the first edition of the original work, and is thus an entire generation behind the present state of antiquarian research.
In placing this remarkable production of Professor Boeckh, enriched as it now is by the latest efforts of German scholarship, within the reach of all who speak the English tongue, Mr. Lamb has performed an invaluable service alike for the student of antiquity and for the general reader. The work is rich in facts which every American citizen desires to know. A faithful exhibition of the Athenian polity, an unvarnished record portraying the elements alike of strength and weakness in that most famed of ancient commonwealths, can never be to us an object of indifference, so long as our own destinies are identified with the fortunes of a great republic. Our English literature, moreover, is sadly wanting in great works on classical antiquity; we hail, therefore, every honest effort to relieve our poverty by the importation of foreign learning in the form of scholarlike translations, as a noble act of public charity.
The extreme difficulty of making a translation, at once elegant and faithful, of a work like the present, can be fully appreciated only by those who have made the experiment. Prof. Boeckh's investigations on the Athenian finances are so profound and thorough, so replete with nice discriminations, and so compacted with minute details, that it is almost impossible to re-produce them in a foreign tongue. The work is so thoroughly German that it is diificult to force it, without distortion, into the strait proportions of the English garb. Mr. Lamb has displayed both scholarship and skill in surmounting these obstacles, and has performed his task with the most conscientious fidelity. Well may we congratulate him on the success which has attended his efforts. We could scarcely express a higher wish for the cause of
Vol. XV. No. 57. 16
classical studies in our land than by bespeaking an extensive sale for this work. Let the student of Demosthenes and Homer scan well these garnered treasures, which scholarship has patiently gleaned from the distant shores of antiquity; and let the young American, as he looks with fond and hopeful gaze to his country's future, pause a brief moment, and ponder the lessons of Athenian experience.
Guided by the learned researches of Prof. Bocckh, we purpose briefly to examine the Financial System of the ancient Athenians.
Political economy recognizes no more powerful agency in promoting the material prosperity of nations than the division of labor. This of course involves exchange, and the consequent necessity of some convenient circulating medium. Thus the currency of a people becomes no mean index of their civilization.
The basis of the Athenian currency was silver. This was worked without seigniorage and without alloy, so far at least as the imperfect state of the refiner's art would allow. Athens nobly decreed that her coinage should derive its full nominal value from the metal which it contained, and that the metal, moreover, should be used in the purest possible state. From this generous policy she never intentionally departed in practice, if we except an abortive attempt once made, in imitation of other Grecian States, to introduce a debased coinage for home circulation,— an attempt which was visited with such an outburst of popular indignation, that no Athenian citizen ever after dared to propose the unholy project of tampering with that pure currency which had long been the basis both of the public credit and of the commercial greatness of the nation.
Some of the specimens of Athenian coins, which have been tested, are found to contain 99 of pure silver; and the average standard given by Wurm1 is, 97, — a degree of purity unequalled in the currencies of modern times. Even the English coins are alloyed some eight per cent., the American and the French, ten per cent.
1 As quoted by Bocckh.
But again, the coins struck at Athens were not only of rare purity, but of full weight. For many centuries they were made to conform, with comparatively slight deviations, to the standard established by Solon. How unlike this has been the history of most national currencies. The as, the basis of the Roman coinage, was originally a pound of copper, but, having been from time to time reduced in weight without change of name, it at last contained only half an ounce, and possessed of course but one twenty-fourth of its original value. The silver coins of England have been changed, according to a recent authority, no less than nineteen times within the last eight centuries, and, with two unimportant exceptions, have in each instance lost in value. The French livre contained in the time of Charlemagne, a pound of silver, while at present it has scarcely one-eightieth of that amount; indeed, such was the depreciation of the French coins in the reign of Philip VI., that an ingenious French writer sees in the disasters of Cressy and Poitiers only the legitimate results of a debased currency. This, he says, had so crippled the once powerful chivalry of France, that it was no longer able to take the field with men and horses properly appointed, and was accordingly obliged to yield before its more fortunate foe.
In view of this almost universal practice of debasing currency, the noble example of the Athenians, in guarding the purity of their national coinage as the exponent of commercial integrity and honor, challenges our admiration.
If now we inquire what relation this currency sustained to the various forms of property, we shall find that, though prices were very much higher at Athens than in other portions of Greece, they yet ranged exceedingly low, in comparison with those now current throughout the civilized world. The reason is obvious. The ancient Greeks possessed but little gold and silver; and no small proportion even of that was locked up in public treasuries, or lay idle as votive offerings in the temples of the gods. The Athenian treasury upon the Acropolis contained in its public coffers no less than §9,700,000 in coined silver, while the colossal statue of Athene in the Parthenon was draped in gold at an expense of half a million of dollars. The amount of gold and silver withdrawn from circulation to be deposited in temples as sacred offerings to the gods, is almost incredible. Gyges consecrated to the Delphian Apollo a long list of rich and costly offerings; among which we read of six huge golden bowls, weighing in the aggregate some seventeen hundred pounds, and worth $300,000. Croesus is as famed for his pious liberality as for his princely wealth. His votive offerings, though scattered through numerous temples, were accumulated in richest abundance at Delphi. The devotee, as he entered that famed temple, was overawed by the magnificent display of costly articles in gold and silver of every variety of size and shape, with which the fabulous wealth of the Lydian prince had enriched it. There were bowls, casks, water-pots and ewers, all of massive silver; a golden statue three cubits high, a golden lion of some five or six hundred pounds weight, a huge golden bowl weighing a quarter of a ton; indeed the votive offerings of this one prince, consecrated in this single temple, must have contained upwards of seven tons of gold. The estimate of Diodorus is still higher; he tells us that, from the gold alone, coins were struck in later times to the almost incredible sum of $4,000,000. The aggregate amount of gold and silver coined by the Phocians in the Second Sacred war, from the accumulated treasures of Delphi reached $10,000,000.
The vast quantities of gold and silver, thus kept out of circulation, produced a comparative scarcity, and, of course, greatly enhanced the value of the precious metals. It has been a common opinion among scholars that modern prices are some ten times as high as those which prevailed in ancient Greece; and though Prof. Boeckh thinks this ratio quite too high, it may still be doubted whether he has succeeded in proving it to be so. It is well known that the amount of gold and silver thrown into circulation in Greece by the Persian wars, by the magnificent works of Pericles, by the lavish expenditures of Philip of Macedon, and by other kindred causes, raised prices at Athens, in the course of two centuries, some five-fold; the money coined by Constantino the Great, from the treasures of heathen temples, at once caused a marked rise in prices; the working of the mines of the New World in the 16th century reduced gold and silver to one third of their former value. It may not, indeed, be possible to measure the united results of these and other causes acting through a period of so many centuries, but, with all due allowance for the counteracting influence of luxury and commerce, the advance in prices since the time of Solon must have been manifold.
It may not be improper to subjoin a few illustrations of prices once current in ancient Athens.
Landed property about Athens was comparatively high, as indeed we should expect to find it in a densely peopled country in the vicinity of a great and flourishing metropolis. Boeckh conjectures on data which do not warrant a decided opinion, that the average price of land in Attica was about $-30 per acre.
Houses sold at prices ranging from $50 to $2000; though there is probably but one instance on record in which this last sum was paid for a residence, and that is cited by Plautus as a piece of comic extravagance. The rich banker Pasion owned a house valued at $1700. Before luxury and corruption had begun to undermine Athenian simplicity and virtue, the citizen ever true to his lofty sentiments of public spirit, scorned private display, and reserved his treasures for the public call. Private houses were, accordingly, of moderate dimensions, simple and unadorned. Four or five hundred dollars were thought quite sufficient to purchase a comfortable home. Even the residences of the most illustrious citizens,— of Miltiades, Themistocles, and Aristides, as Demosthenes expressly assures us, were not at all distinguished from those of their humble neighbors. Perhaps few New England mechanics would live content in the unpretending homes of the victors of Marat hon and Salamis. In the golden age of Athenian greatness and freedom, there was no more striking contrast, even in that city of contradictions and extremes, than that presented by the simplicity and