[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

 p750  Mensarii

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p750 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

MENSA′RII, MENSULA′RII, or NUMMULA′RII, ºwere a kind of public bankers at Rome who were appointed by the state; they were distinct from the argentarii, who were common bankers and did business on their own account (Dig. 2 tit. 13 s6). The mensarii had their banks (mensae) like ordinary bankers around the forum, and in the name of the aerarium they offered ready money to debtors who could give security to the state for it. Such an expediency was devised by the state only in times of great distress. The first time that mensarii (quinqueviri mensarii) were appointed was in 352 B.C., at the time when the plebeians were so deeply involved in debt, that they were obliged to borrow money from new creditors in order to pay the old ones, and thus ruined themselves completely (Liv. VII.21; compare Fenus (Roman) and Argentarii). On this occasion they were also authorized to ordain that cattle or land should be received as payment at a fair valuation. Such bankers were appointed at Rome at various times and whenever debts weighed heavily upon the people, but with the exception of the first time they appear during the time of the republic to have always been triumviri mensarii (Liv. XXIII.21, XXVI.36). One class of mensarii, however (perhaps an inferior order), the mensularii or nummularii,º seem to have been permanently employed by the state, and these must be meant when we read that not only the aerarium but also private individuals deposited in their hands sums of money which they had to dispose of (Tacit. Annal. VI.17; Dig. 16 tit. 3 s7; 42 tit. 5 s24). As Rome must have often been visited by great numbers of strangers, these public bankers had also, for a certain percentage, to exchange foreign money and give Roman coinage instead, and also to examine all kinds of coins whether they were of the proper metal and genuine or note (Dig. 46 tit. 3 s39). During the time of the empire such permanent mensarii were under the control of the praefectus urbi and formed a distinct corporation (Dig. 1 tit. 12 s1; Cod. Theod. 16 tit. 4 s5).

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 22 Jan 09