Talent (measurement)

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Introduced in Mesopotamia at the end of the 4th Millennium, and normalized at the end of the 3rd Millennium during the Akkadian-Sumer phase, the load (talent) as a measure of weight was divided into 60 minas, each of which was subdivided into 60 shekels. The use of 60 illustrates the attachment of the early Mesopotamians to their useful sexagesimal arithmetic. These weights were used subsequently by the Babylonians, Sumerians, and Phoenicians, and later by the Hebrews. The Babylonian weights are approximately: shekel (8.4 gm), mina (504 gm), and talent (30.2 kg = 66.6 lb). The Phoenicians took their trade to the Greeks with their weight measures during the Archaic period, and the latter adopted these weights and their ratio of 60 minas to one talent; a Greek mina in Euboea around 800 B.C. was hence 504 gm, [See J.H. Kroll, Early Iron Age balance weights at Lefkandi, Euboea: Oxford Journal of Archaeology 27, pp. 37–48 (2008)]; other minas in the Mediterranean basin, and even Greek minas in other parts of Greece, varied locally in some small measure from the Babylonian values, and from one to another.

The Homeric talent "as money" was probably the gold equivalent of the value of an ox or a cow.[1] Based on a statement from a later Greek source that "the talent of Homer was equal in amount to the later Daric [... i.e.] two Attic drachmas" and analysis of finds from a Mycenaean grave-shaft, a weight of about 8.4 gm can be established for this money talent.[1] The talent of gold was known to Homer, who described how Achilles gave a half-talent of gold to Antilochus as a prize.[2]

The weight talent (Latin: talentum, from Ancient Greek: τάλαντον, talanton "scale, balance, sum") was one of several ancient weight units for commercial transactions. An Attic weight talent was approximately 26.0 kg [3] (approximately the mass of water required to fill an average amphora[citation needed]), and a Babylonian talent was 30.2 kg.[4] Ancient Israel adopted the Babylonian weight talent, but later revised it.[5] The heavy common talent, used in New Testament times, was 58.9 kilograms (130 lb).[5] A Roman weight talent in ancient times is equivalent to 100 libra; a libra is exactly three quarters of an Attic weight mina, so a Roman talent is 1.33 Attic talents and hence approximately 32.3 kilograms (71 lb). An Egyptian talent was 80 librae.[3] and hence approximately 27 kilograms (60 lb). [3].

Homeric talent[edit]

The original Homeric talent was probably the gold equivalent of the value of an ox or a cow.[1] Based on a statement from a later Greek source that "the talent of Homer was equal in amount to the later Daric [... i.e.] two Attic drachmas" and analysis of finds from a Mycenaean grave-shaft, a weight of about 8.5 grams (0.30 oz) can be established for this original talent.[1] The later Attic talent was of a different weight than the Homeric, but represented the same value in copper as the Homeric did in gold, with the price ratio of gold to copper in Bronze Age Greece being 1:3000.[1]

Attic talent[edit]

An Attic talent was the equivalent of 60 minae or 6,000 drachmae.[6]

An Attic weight talent was about 25.8 kilograms (57 lb). Friedrich Hultsch estimated a weight of 26.2 kg,[7], and Dewald (1998) offers an estimate of 26.0 kg.[8] An Attic talent of silver was the value of nine man-years of skilled work.[9] In 415 BC, an Attic talent was a month's pay for a trireme crew,[10] Hellenistic mercenaries were commonly paid one drachma per day of military service.[citation needed]

Aeginetan talent[edit]

The Aeginetan talent weighed about 37 kg. The German historian Friedrich Hultsch calculated a range of 36.15 to 37.2kg based on such estimates as the weight of one full Aeginetan metretes of coins, and concluded that the Aeginetan talent represented the water weight of a Babylonian ephah: 36.29 kg by his reckoning (the metretes and the ephah were units of volume).[11] Percy Gardner estimated a weight of 37.32 kg, based on extant weights and coins.[12]

An Aeginetan talent was worth 60 Aeginetan minae, or 6,000 Aeginetan drachmae[dubious ].[citation needed]

Other talents[edit]

The talent as a unit of value is mentioned in the New Testament in Jesus' parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).[13] This parable is the origin of the use of the word "talent" to mean "gift or skill" in English and other languages.[14][15] Luke includes a different parable involving the mina.[16] According to Epiphanius, the talent is called mina (maneh) among the Hebrews, and was the equivalent in weight to one-hundred denarii.[17] The talent is found in another parable of Jesus [18] where a servant who is forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents refuses to forgive another servant who owes him only one hundred silver denarii. The talent is also used elsewhere in the Bible, as when describing the material invested in the Ark of the Covenant.[19] Solomon received 666 gold talents a year.[20]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Herodotus (1998) [440 BC]. Dewald, Carolyn, ed. The Histories. Translated by Waterfield, Robin. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192126092.
  • Hultsch, Friedrich (1882). Griechische und Römische Metrologie [Greek and Roman Metrology] (in German) (2nd ed.). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Charles Theodore Seltman (1924) Athens, Its History and Coinage Before the Persian Invasion, pp. 112–114.
  2. ^ Homer, Iliad, Hom. Il. 23.784.
  3. ^ a b c John William Humphrey, John Peter Oleson, Andrew Neil Sherwood, Greek and Roman technology, p.487.
  4. ^ Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The Histories (1998), p. 593.
  5. ^ a b "III. Measures of Weight:", JewishEncyclopedia.com
  6. ^ Renfrew & Wagstaff (1982): "One Attic talent was the equivalent of 60 minae or 6,000 drachmae..."
  7. ^ Hultsch (1882), p 135
  8. ^ Dewald (1998), in Appendix II
  9. ^ Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
  10. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Book 6, verse 8: "Early in the spring of the following summer the Athenian envoys arrived from Sicily, and the Egestaeans with them, bringing sixty talents of uncoined silver, as a month's pay for sixty ships, which they were to ask to have sent them."
  11. ^ Hultsch (1882), p 502
  12. ^ Gardner (1918)
  13. ^ Matthew 25:14-30
  14. ^ Talent. (F.-L-Gk.) The sense of 'ability' is from the parable; Matt. xxv. F. talent, 'a talent in money; also will, desire;' Cot. —L. talentum. — Gk. тоЛа»Tov, a balance, weight, sum of money, talent. Named from being lifted and weighed; cf. Skt. tul, I.. tollere, to lift, Gk. Tcsa-m, sustaining. (TAL.) Allied to Tolerate. Der. talent-ed, in use before A. D. 1700. p 489 A concise etymological dictionary of the English language, Rev. Walter W. Skeat
  15. ^ talent late 13c., "inclination, disposition, will, desire," from O.Fr. talent, from M.L. talenta, pl. of talentum "inclination, leaning, will, desire" (1098), in classical L. "balance, weight, sum of money," from Gk. talanton "balance, weight, sum," from PIE *tel-, *tol- "to bear, carry" (see extol). Originally an ancient unit of weight or money (varying greatly and attested in O.E. as talente), the M.L. and common Romanic sense developed from figurative use of the word in the sense of "money." Meaning "special natural ability, aptitude," developed mid-14c., from the parable of the talents in Matt. xxv:14-30. Related: Talented. Online Etymological Dictionary
  16. ^ Luke 19:12-27
  17. ^ Epiphanius, Treatise on Weights and Measures (Syriac Version) James Elmer Dean (ed.), Chicago University Press: 1935, §45
  18. ^ Matthew 18:23-35
  19. ^ Exodus 38
  20. ^ 2 Chronicles 9:13
    1 Kings 10:14

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