Attic talent

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An Athenian silver drachma, 454-404 BC, weighing 4.3 grams. A talent was equal to 6,000 drachmae, the equivalent of 25.80 kilograms of silver.

The Attic talent (a talent of the Attic standard), also known as the Athenian talent or Greek talent (Greek: τάλαντον, talanton), is an ancient unit of mass equal to 26 kg, as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver.[1] A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora (one cubic foot) [2] At the 2012 price of $1001/kg, a silver talent is worth $26,030.[3] It was equivalent to 60 minae, 6,000 drachmae or 36,000 oboloi.[1]

During the Peloponnesian War, a trireme crew of 200 rowers was paid a talent for a month's worth of work, one drachma, or 4.3 grams of silver per rower per day.[4] According to wage rates from 377 BC, a talent was the value of nine man-years of skilled work.[5] This corresponds to 2340 work days or 11.1 grams of silver per worker per workday. A modern carpenter gets about $25,060/year or $226,000 for nine years of work.[6]

In 1800, a building craftsman in urban Europe got an average wage of 11.9 grams of silver a day,[7] or about $0.49 a day.[8] Adjusted for inflation, this corresponds to $6 a day in 2007 money.[9] Assuming a European worker in 1800 to be as productive as a worker in ancient Greece, the purchasing power of a talent in ancient times was about $20,000 of early 21st century money.[10] The plausibility of this calculation is confirmed by the fact that a talent of silver was worth $1081 in 1800,[8] equivalent to $13,000 after adjusting for inflation.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The exact mass of a talent was 25.992kg. Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The Histories (1998), p. 593.
  2. ^ Talent (Biblical Hebrew), Unit of Measure, unitconversion.org.
  3. ^ "London Fix Historical Silver". 
  4. ^ Torr, Cecil. "Triremes", The Classical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1906), p. 137.
  5. ^ Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
  6. ^ See careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/240/Carpenter.html
  7. ^ Calculated from Robert Allen's "Wages New", p. 36.
  8. ^ a b Calculated from here.
  9. ^ a b Calculated from here.
  10. ^ See also footnote one in "Life of Crassus", which calculates the value of a talent as $20,000 in 2004 money.