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 weight equal to about 26 kilograms (57 lb), as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver. A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora, about one cubic foot (28 l).
The earliest known Athenian coins range between the years of 545 BC to 515 BC. However, Athenians had already adopted the drachma and the obol as a form of currency. The corresponding weights vary before and after the Athenians began to produce coins. After the reign of Solon, the change of standard was lowered to half of its former weight. As the Athenian league's influence expanded over the Mediterranean, the Attic standard became one of the major weight standards adopted during the Archaic and Hellenistic Period.
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. According to wage rates from 377 BC, a talent was the value of nine man-years of skilled work. This corresponds to 2340 work days or 11.1 grams (0.36 ozt) of silver per worker per workday.
Currency or weight
In 1800, a building craftsman in urban Europe received an average wage of 11.9 grams (0.38 ozt) of silver a day, or about $0.49 a day. 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 equal to $20,000 in the early 21st century. The plausibility of this calculation is confirmed by the fact that a talent of silver was worth $1081 in 1800, equivalent to $13,000 after adjusting for inflation.
- The exact mass of a talent was 25.992kg. Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The Histories (1998), p. 593.
- Talent (Biblical Hebrew), Unit of Measure, unitconversion.org.
- "Athenian Politics c800-500 BC: A Sourcebook". Routledge & CRC Press. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
- Metcalf, William (2012-02-23). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-530574-6.
- Hill, G. F. (1897). "SOLON'S REFORM OF THE ATTIC STANDARD". The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society. 17: 284–292. ISSN 2054-9172.
- Berthold, Richard M. (2009). Rhodes in the Hellenistic Age. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-7597-9.
- Torr, Cecil. "Triremes", The Classical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1906), p. 137.
- Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
- Mørkholm, Otto (1991-05-31). Early Hellenistic Coinage from the Accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamaea (336-188 BC). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-39504-5.
- British Museum. Dept. of Coins and Medals. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum: Attica, Megaris, Aegina. Harvard University.
- Calculated from Robert Allen's "Wages New[permanent dead link]", p. 36.
- Calculated from here Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- See also footnote one in "Life of Crassus", which calculates the value of a talent as $20,000 in 2004 money.
- Calculated from here Archived 2007-07-21 at WebCite.