Money In Ancient Times

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Here's some advice on how to extract economic information from a history textbook, and turn that into solid explanations of the economic reasons for historical events.

Here's some advice on how to extract economic information from a history textbook, and turn that into solid explanations of the economic reasons for historical events.

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  • 1. Alexander the Great: IV 1 8 F e b r u a ry 2 0 1 0
  • 2. “Getting” Economics
  • 3. This is a Drachma — Front
  • 4. This is a Drachma — Back
  • 5. Another Drachma (approx. size)
  • 6. A Drachma was about $25
  • 7. For normal citizens, this was a day’s pay in Ancient Greece
  • 8. 2 Drachmae were a day’s pay for a professional infantryman
  • 9. 4 Drachmae were a day’s pay for a professional Cavalryman
  • 10. = 10 Drachmae were equal to a mina
  • 11. = 60 minae were equal to a talent — about 26.5 kg/58 lbs of silver
  • 12. So a talent was about 6000 drachmae
  • 13. ...or in today’s money, about $150,000
  • 14. Back to the Text
  • 15. On p. 143, it says...
  • 16. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY “When the people of Thebes rebelled, he [Alexander] destroyed the city. About 6,000 Thebans were killed. The survivors were sold into slavery. Frightened by his cruelty, the other Greek city-states quickly gave up any idea of rebellion.”
  • 17. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY “When the people of Thebes rebelled, he [Alexander] destroyed the city. About 6,000 Thebans were killed. The survivors were sold into slavery. Frightened by his cruelty, the other Greek city-states quickly gave up any idea of rebellion.”
  • 18. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY The survivors were sold into slavery. About 25,000 citizens lived in Thebes in the 3rd century BC. So 19,000 are being sold. The price of a slave in the 3rd century BC (Wikipedia) was about 500 drachmae. Alexander is getting 9.5 million drachmae from the sale of the Theban slaves.
  • 19. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY That’s $237 million dollars! Just from slaves
  • 20. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY “When the people of Thebes rebelled, he [Alexander] destroyed the city. About 6,000 Thebans were killed. The survivors were sold into slavery. Frightened by his cruelty, the other Greek city-states quickly gave up any idea of rebellion.”
  • 21. Page 143, WORLD HISTORY “ Frightened by his cruelty, the other Greek city-states quickly gave up any idea of rebellion.” The other Greek city-states agreed to pay taxes to Alexander and to the kingdom of Macedon. It’s not $200 million, but it’s a lot.
  • 22. P. 143, further on “With Greece now secure, Alexander felt free to carry out his father’s plan to invade and conquer Persia. In 334 BC, he [Alexander] led 35,000 soldiers across the Hellespont into Anatolia. 35,000 men don’t march hundreds of miles just on an order — they need food, water, and money.
  • 23. P. 143, further on In 334 BC, he [Alexander] led 35,000 soldiers across the Hellespont into Anatolia. 35,000 men @ 2.7 drachmae a day (relative size of infantry vs. cavlary) = 94,500 drachmae a day to support this army. Paid in advance, 3 mos. (90 days) = 8,505,000 drachmae
  • 24. Logically.... The Sack of Thebes, and the sale of the city’s inhabitants, was financing Alexander’s invasion of Persia. The conquest of Western Persia (modern-day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan) financed the invasion of Egypt. Egypt paid for conquest of Eastern Persia.
  • 25. Arrian says.... “On making himself master of Susa, Alexander came into possession of forty thousand talents of coined money in the palace, and of untold furniture and wealth beside. Among this they say was found five thousand talents' weight of purple from Hermione, which, although it had been stored there for a hundred and ninety years, still kept its colors fresh and lively. The reason for this, they say, is that honey was used in the purple dyes, and white olive oil in the white dyes; for these substances, after the like space of time, are seen to have a brilliancy that is pure and lustrous.”
  • 26. Arrian says.... Purple Dyes were pretty valuable... more valuable than a drachma, likely. But the 40,000 talents of silver that Alexander took in the sack of the Persian capital of Susa...
  • 27. Arrian says.... 1 talent = 6,000 Alexander used that drachmae money to finance the conquest of Persia... 40,000 talents = 240,000,000 drachmae ... all the way to India’s borders... 1 drachma = $25 and into Pakistan and Persian treasury held Afghanistan. about $6 billion in terms of today’s money. Money moves the world?
  • 28. A Comparison Nine Million dollars is a pile about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
  • 29. A Comparison Nine Hundred Million dollars is rather a lot larger.
  • 30. A Comparison Nine Hundred Million dollars is rather a lot larger.
  • 31. A Comparison And Alexander captures about seven of these in the sack of the Persian capital city of Susa.
  • 32. A Comparison The recent economic recovery stimulus plan is a lot larger... $87 billion...
  • 33. A Comparison Haiti $6.9bil Nicaragua $6.5bil Countries today with GDP (similar to the ancient Persian Treasury) of around $6-7 billion dollars... Moldova $6.05bil