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 p931  Pondera

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp931‑936 of

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

PONDERA (σταθμοί). The considerations, which lie at the basis of the whole subject of weights and measures, both generally, and with special reference to the ancient Greek and Roman systems, have already been mentioned in the introductory part of the article Mensura. In the present article it is proposed to give a brief general account of the Greek and Roman systems of weights.

1. Early Greek Weights. — It has been already stated, in the article Mensura, that all the knowledge we have upon the subject goes to prove that, in the Greek and Roman metrical systems, weights preceded measures; that the latter were derived from the former; and both from a system which had prevailed, from a period of unknown antiquity, among the Chaldaeans at Babylon. This system was introduced into Greece, after the epoch of the Homeric poems; for, of the two chief denominations used in the Greek system, namely, τάλαντον (talentum) and μνᾶ (mina), Homer uses only the former, which is a genuine Greek word, meaning weight, the other being an Oriental word of the same meaning. (See Nummus, p810; where some things, which more properly belong to this article, have been necessarily anticipated.) Homer uses τάλαντον, like μέτρον, in a specific sense (Il. XXIII.260‑270); and indeed in all languages the earliest words used for weight are merely generic terms specifically applied; such as τάλαντον, maneh (μνᾶ), libra, and our own pound, from pondus. Hence the introduction of the foreign word maneh (μνᾶ) by the side of the native word τάλαντον indicates the introduction of a new standard of weight; which new standard soon superseded the old; and then the old word τάλαντον was used as a denomination of weight in the new system, quite different from the weight which it signified before. This last point is manifest from the passages in Homer, in which the word is used in a specific sense, especially in the description of the funeral games (l.c.), where the order of the prizes proves that the talent must have been a very much smaller weight than the later talent of 60 minae, or about 82 pounds avoirdupois; and traces of this ancient small talent are still found at a very much later period. Thus we arrive at the first position in the subject, that the Greek system of weight was post-Homeric.

2. The Greek System in the Historical Period. — Of course, by the Greek system here is meant the system which prevailed throughout Greece in the historical times, and which contained four principal denominations, which, though different at different times and places, and even at the same place for different substances, always bore the same relation to each other. These were the Talent (τάλαντον), which was the largest, then the Mina (μνᾶ), the Drachma (δραχμή), and the Obol (ὀβολός). The two latter terms are, in all probability, genuine Greek words, introduced for the purpose of making convenient subdivisions of the standard, δραχμή signifying a handful, and ὀβολός being perhaps the same as ὀβελός, and signifying a small wedge of silver;​a so that these words again fall under the description of generic terms specifically applied.

These weights were related to one another as follows:

Talent contained . . . 60 Minae.
Mina contained . . . 100 Drachmae.
Drachma contained . . . 6 Obols.

Their relative values are exhibited more fully in the following table: —

Obol
6 Drachma
600 100 Mina
36,000 6000 60 Talent.

3. Description of this System from Babylon. — Now, in this system, the unhellenic word μνᾶ indicates, as already observed, the source from which the standard was derived. This word is undoubtedly of Semitic origin; and it seems to belong more especially to the Chaldee dialect, in which it signifies number or measure in its widest sense, the proper word for weight being tekel or shekel.​1 (See Dan. v.25, 26, where both words occur). In Hebrew it is used as a specific weight, equal to 50 or 60 shekels​2 (1 Kings, x.17; Ezra, ii.69; Nehem. vii.71, 72; Ezek. xlv.12). The word was also used in Egypt, in the sense of fluid measure and also of a weight of water. (See Böckh, Metrol. Untersuch. c. iv).​b From an examination of several passages of the Greek writers, by the light of the etymological signification of the word μνᾶ, Böckh arrives at the following conclusions, which, if not strictly demonstrated, are established on as strong grounds as we can probably ever hope to obtain in so difficult a subject: (1) that in the astronomical observations of the Chaldees and Egyptians, time was measured by the running out of the water through an orifice: — (2) that the weight of the water which so ran out was estimated both by measure and by weight: — (4)º that this mode of measuring time led naturally to the determination of a connected system both of weights and measures, the unit of which was the maneh (μνᾶ), which originally signified a definite quantity of weight, determined either by weight or measure, and was afterwards used especially in the sense of a definite weight: — (5) that this system passed from Assyria to Phoenicia, and thence to  p932 the Greeks, who are expressly stated to have derived from Babylon their method of dividing the day and measuring time, and other important usages, and whose most ancient talent (the Aeginetan) was still, in the historical times, identical with the Babylonian.

4. The Babylonian Talent. — The Babylonian talent itself was current in the Persian Empire as the standard weight for silver. Under Dareius the son of Hystaspes, the silver tribute of the provinces was estimated by the Babylonian talent, their gold tribute by the Euboïc; and coined silver was also paid from the royal treasury according to the Babylon talent (Herod. III.89, foll.; Aelian, V. H. I.22). Now the two standards here mentioned are connected by Herodotus by the statement that the Babylonian talent is equal to 70 Euboïc minae, which, since every talent contained 60 minae, gives 70:60 for the ratio of the Babylonian talent to the Euboïc.​c There are, however, very sufficient reasons for concluding that 70 is here a round number, not an exact one (see Böckh, c. v). Pollux gives the same ratio (70:60) for that of the Babylonian to the Attic talent; for he says that the Babylonian talent contained 70 Attic minae and 7000 Attic drachmae (IX.86): and it is probable that this statement is founded on the testimony of Herodotus, but that Pollux substituted the familiar Attic standard for the less known Euboïc, which two standards he knew to have some close connection with each other, and so he fell into the error of making them precisely equal. The same correction must be applied to the testimony of Aelian (l.c.), who makes the Babylonian talent equal to 72 Attic minae; and in this statement, so corrected, we have probably the true ratio of the Babylonian talent to the Euboïc, namely 72:60 or 6:5. In such arguments as these, it is extremely important to remember that the evidence is not that of Pollux and Aelian, who could not possibly give any independent testimony on such a subject, but that of the ancient authorities whom they followed, and by whom the term Attic may have been used truly as equivalent to Euboïc; for the Attic standard before the legislation of Solon was the same as the Euboïc, and this standard was still retained in commerce after Solon's alterations.​3 In this sense there can be little doubt that, in the statement of Aelian, we have the testimony of some ancient writer, who gave a more exact value than the round number which Herodotus deemed sufficient for his purpose as an historian; and the truth of his testimony is confirmed, not only by the greater exactness of the number, but by its very nature; for, not only do we find in 70 (= 7 × 10) a prime factor which is most unlikely to have entered into a system of weights, namely 7,​d but in 72 (= 6 × 12) as well as in 60 (5 × 12) we have the duodecimal computation which we know to have prevailed most extensively in the early metrical systems. The division of the day into 12 hours, which Herodotus expressly ascribes to the Babylonians, is not only a striking example of this, but a fact peculiarly important in connection with the idea that the measurement of time by water led to the invention of the Babylonian system of weights. It is also important to observe that these two ancient systems, the Babylonian and the Euboïc, differ from one another in a proportion which is expressed by multiplying 12 by the numbers which form the bases of the decimal and duodecimal systems respectively, namely, 6 and 5. In connection with this fact, it is interesting to observe that the Hebrew talent, which was no doubt essentially the same as the Babylonian, is made, by different computations, to consist of 60 or 50 maneh.

Indeed, the whole of the Hebrew system throws important light on the Babylonian, and on its connection with the Greek. The outline of this system is as follows:

Gerah
10 Bekah
20 2 Shekel
1000 100 50 Maneh
60,000 6000 3000 60 Kikkar

where the principal unit is the Shekel, which can be identified with the principal unit of the old Greek system (in its chief application to coined money), namely, the didrachm or old stater. Hence we have the

Kikkar equivalent to the talent
Maneh " mina
Shekel " didrachm or stater
Bekah " drachma.

To this part of the subject, which we have not space to pursue further, Böckh devotes a long and elaborate chapter (c. vi, Hebräisches, Phönicisches, und Syrisches Gewicht und Geld).

5. The Aeginetan Talent. — Returning to the connection between the Babylonian and Greek talent, we have seen that the Babylonian talent contained 72 Euboïc minae. It will presently appear that the Euboïc talent and mina were the same as the great Attic talent and mina, which were in use before the reduction effected in them by Solon; and further that the nature of that reduction was such that the Old Attic (Euboïc) talent was equivalent to 8333⅓ New Attic (Solonian) drachmae, and the Euboïc mina to 138⁸⁄₉ Solonian drachmae. Now the Babylonian talent contained 72 Euboïc minae, that is (138⁸⁄₉ × 72 =) 10,000 Solonian drachmae. But 10,000 Solonian drachmae were equivalent to an Aeginetan talent (Pollux, IX.76, 86; comp. Nummus, p810, a). Therefore, the Aeginetan Talent was equivalent to the Babylonian. What is meant precisely by the Aeginetan talent, and how this talent was established in Greece by the legislation of Pheidon, has already been explained under Nummus. The only step remaining to complete the exposition of the outline of the subject  p933 is the obvious remark that Pheidon must have arranged his standard of weights by that which had already been introduced into Greece by the commerce of the Phoenicians, namely, the Babylonian.

6. The Euboïc Talent. — In the foregoing remarks, the Euboïc talent has been continually referred to as a standard with which to compare the Babylonian. We have now to investigate independently its origin and value. The name Euboïc, like the name Aeginetan, is calculated to mislead, as we see in the absurd explanations by which some of the grammarians attempt to account for its origin. (See Nummus, p810). That the name comes from the island of Euboea, and that the Euboïc standard was not only used there, but was widely diffused thence by the Chalcidic colonies, admits of no reasonable doubt; but it is not very probable that the standard originated there. The most important term respecting it is the statement already quoted, that Dareius reckoned the gold tribute of his satrapies in Euboïc talents (Herod. III.8995). Böckh (c. viii) thinks it incredible that the Persian king should have made use of a Greek standard; and, before him, the best of all the writers on metrology, Raper, had acknowledged the oriental origin of the standard (Philos. Trans. vol. LXI p486). This view derives also some support from the curious numeral relation already noticed between the Babylonian and Euboïc scales; which suggests the idea that the minae of the two slices may have been derived from the subdivision of the same primary unit, in the one, into parts both decimal and duodecimal, that is, sexagesimal (6), in the other, into parts purely duodecimal (72); and then, for the sake of uniformity, a talent of the latter scale was introduced, containing, like the other, 60 minae. Be this as it may, it can be affirmed with tolerable safety that the Euboïc talent is derived from a standard of weight used for gold, which existed in the East in the earliest historical period, by the side of the Babylonian standard, which was used chiefly for silver; that, at an early period, it was introduced by commerce into Euboea, from which island it derived the name by which it was known to the Greeks, on account of its diffusion by the commercial activity of the Euboeans just as the Babylonian standard obtained its Greek name from the commercial activity of the Aeginetans. (Comp. Nummus, l.c.)

The exactness of the terms respecting the value of this standard involves a discussion too intricate to be entered upon here, although it is one of the most interesting parts of the whole subject. We must be content to refer the reader to the masterly argument of Böckh (c. viii), who comes to the following conclusions: — that the Euboïc standard was not, as some have thought, the same as the Aeginetan; nor the same, or but slightly different from, the Solonian Attic; — that its true ratio to the Babylonian, or Aeginetan, was that given in round numbers by Herodotus, as 60:70, and in exact numbers by Aelian (who by Attic means old Attic) as 60:72, that is, 5:6; and that its ratio to the Solonian was, as will presently be shown, 25:18. These views are confirmed, not only by the consistency of the results to which they lead, but by the decisive evidence of the existing coins of the Euboïc standard. [Nummus.]

These two standards form the foundation of the whole system of Greek weights. But the second received an important modification by the legislation of Solon; and this modification became, under the name of the Attic silver talent, the chief standard of weight through the East of Europe, and the West of Asia. We proceed to notice both of the Attic standards.

7. The Old Attic Talent, and the Solonian Talent. — We have already noticed, under Nummus (p812B), Plutarch's account of the reduction effected by Solon in the Attic system of weights and money, according to which the old weights were to the new in the proportion of 100:73. An important additional light is thrown on this matter by an extant Athenian inscription, from which we obtain a more exact statement of the ratio than in Plutarch's account, and from which we also learn that the old system continued in use, long after the Solonian reduction, for all commodities, except such as were required by law to be weighed according to the other standard, which was also the one always used for money, and is therefore called the silver standard, the old system being called the commercial standard, and its mina the commercial mina (ἡ μνᾶ ἡ ἐμπορική). The inscription, which is a decree of uncertain date (about Ol. 155, B.C. 160, according to Böckh, C. I. No. 123, § 4, vol. I p164), mentions the commercial mina as weighing "138 drachmae Στεφανηφόρου, according to the standard weights in the mint" [Argyrocopeion], that is, of course, 138 drachmae of the silver or Solonian, standard. This would give the ratio of the old to the new Attic weights as 138:100, or 100:723269, certainly a very curious proportion. It appears, however, on closer research, that this ratio is still not exact. It often happens that, in some obscure passage of a grammarian, we find a statement involving minute details, so curious and inexplicable, till the clue is found, that the few scholars who notice the passage reject it as unintelligible, without considering that those strange minutiae are the best evidence that the statement is no invention; and that the grammarian, who copied the statement, without troubling himself to understand it, preserved a fact, which more systematic writers have lost or perverted. Such passages are grains of pure gold amidst the mud which forms the bulk of the deposit brought down to us by those writers. A striking instance is now before us, in a passage of Priscian (de Re Numm.) in which, following a certain Dardanus, they say: "Talentum Atheniense parvum minae sexaginta, magnum minae octingenta tres et unciae quattuor." Taking the last words to be the Roman mode of expressing 83⅓, and assuming, what is obvious, that the minae meant in the two clauses are of the same standard, namely, the common Attic or Solonian (for, as a general rule, this standard is to be understood, where no other is specified), and understanding by the great Attic talent that of the commercial standard, and by the small, the silver, or Solonian, we obtain this result, —- that the ratio of the old Attic or commercial talent to the new Attic or Solonian, was as 83⅓:60, or as 138⁸⁄₉:100, or as 100:72. For the masterly argument by which Böckh sustains the truth of this statement, we must refer to his own work (c. viii). It is easy to understand how, in process of time, the fraction came to be neglected, so that, in the decree quoted, the commercial mina of 100 p934commercial drachmae was spoken of as containing 138 silver drachmae instead of 138⁸⁄₉, and how, further, when Plutarch came to calculate how many drachmae of the old scale were contained in the Solonian mina, he gave an integral number 73, instead of 723269, and thus, by these two rejections of fractions, the true ratio of 100:72 was altered to 100:73.4

8. Ratios of the three Greek Systems to each other. — The importance of this calculation is made manifest, and its truth is confirmed, by comparing the result with the statements which we have of the ratio of the Aeginetan standard to the Solonian. That ratio was 5:3, according to the statement of Pollux, that the Aeginetan talent contained 10,000 Attic drachmae, and the drachma 10 Attic obols (Poll. IX.76, 86). Mr. Hussey (who was the first, and, after the reply of Böckh, ought to be the last, to call this statement in question) observes that this value would give an Aeginetan drachma of 110 grains, whereas the existing coins give an average of only 96; and he explains the statement of Pollux as referring not to the Attic silver drachma of the full weight, but to the lighter drachma which was current in and after the reign of Augustus, and which was about equal to the Roman denarius [Drachma].

On the other hand, Böckh adheres to the proportion of 5:3, as given by Pollux, who could not (he contends) have meant by drachmae those equal to the denarii, because he is not making a calculation of his own, suited to the value of the drachma in his time, but repeating the statement of some ancient writer who lived when the Attic and Aeginetan currencies were in their best condition. Mr. Hussey himself states (p34), and for a similar reason to that urged by Böckh, that when Pollux speaks of the value of the Babylonian talent in relation to the Attic, he is to be understood as referring to Attic money of the full weight: and Böckh adds the important remark, that where Pollux records by the lighter drachmae, as in the case of the Syrian and small Egyptian talents, this only proves that those talents had but recently come into circulation. Böckh thinks it very probable that Pollux followed the authority of Aristotle, whom he used much, to which he makes frequent references in his statements regarding measures and money, and who had frequent occasions for speaking of the values of money in his political works.

Again, as the Aeginetan standard was that which prevailed over the greater part of Greece in early times, we should expect to find some definite proportion between it and the old Attic before Solon; and, if we take the statement of Pollux, we do get such a proportion, namely, that of 6:5, the same which has been obtained from the foregoing investigation.

Böckh supports his view by the evidence of existing coins, especially the old Macedonian, before the adoption of the Attic standard by Philip and Alexander, which give a drachma of about 110 grains, which is to the Attic as 5:3. The identity of the old Macedonian standard with the Aeginetan is proved by Böckh (Metrol. p89; compare Müller, Dor. III.10 § 12 and Aeginet. pp54‑58). There are also other very ancient Greek coins of this standard, which had their origin, in all probability, in the Aeginetan system [Nummus, p812A].

The lightness of the existing coins referred to by Hussey is explained by Böckh from the well-known tendency of the ancient mints to depart from the full standard.

Mr. Hussey quotes a passage where Herodotus (III.131) states that Democedes, a physician, after receiving a talent in one year at Aegina, obtained at Athens the next year a salary of 100 minae, which Herodotus clearly means was more than what he had before. But, according to Pollux's statement, says Mr. Hussey, the two sums were exactly equal, and therefore there was no gain. But Herodotus says nothing of different standards; surely then he meant the same standard to be applied in both cases.

From comparing statements made respecting the pay of soldiers, Hussey (p61) obtains 4:3 as about the ratio of the Aeginetan to the Attic standard. Böckh accounts for this by supposing that the pay of soldiers varied, and by the fact that the Aeginetan money was actually lighter than the proper standard, while the Attic at the same period was very little below the full weight.

There are other arguments on both sides, but what has been said will give a sufficiently complete view of the question.

As the result of the whole investigation, we get the following definite ratios between the three chief systems of Greek weights:

Aeginetan : Euboïc : : 6  : 5
Aeginetan : Solonian : : 5  : 3
Euboïc : Solonian : : 138⁸⁄₉ : 100
i.e. : : 100  : 72
: : 25  : 18
or nearly : : 4  : 3

The reason of the strange ratio between the Solonian and old Attic (Euboïc) system seems to have been the desire of the legislator to establish a simple ratio between his new system and the Aeginetan. Respecting the diffusion of the three systems throughout Greece, see Nummus.

9. Other Grecian Systems. — Our information respecting the other standards used in Greece and the neighbouring countries is very scanty and confused. Respecting the Egyptian, Alexandrian, or Ptolemaic Talent, the reader is referred to Böckh, c. x. The Tyrian Talent appears to have been exactly equal to the Attic. A Rhodian Talent is mentioned by Festus in a passage which is manifestly corrupt (s.v. Talentum). The most probable emendation of the passage gives 4000 cistophori or 7500 denarii as the value of this talent. A Syrian Talent is mentioned, the value of which is very uncertain. There were two sizes of it. The larger, which was six times that used for money, was used at Antioch for weighing wood. A Cilician Talent of 3000 drachmae, or half the Attic, is mentioned by Pollux (IX.6).

A much smaller talent was in use for gold. It was equal to 6 Attic drachmae, or about ¾ oz. It  p935 was called the gold talent, or the Sicilian talent from its being much used by the Greeks of Italy and Sicily. This talent is perhaps connected with the small talent which is the only one that occurs in Homer. The Italian Greeks divided it into 24 nummi, and afterwards into 12 (Pollux, IX.6; Festus, s.v. Talentum). [Compare Nummus, p814.]

This small talent explains the use of the term great talent (magnum talentum), which we find in Latin authors, for the silver Attic talent was great in comparison with this. But the use of the term by the Romans is altogether very inexact; and in some cases, where they follow old Greek writers, they use it to signify the old Attic or Euboïc Talent.

There are other talents barely mentioned by ancient writers. Hesychius (s.v.) mentions one of 100 pounds (λιτρῶν), Vitruvius (X.21) one of 120; Suidas (s.v.), Hesychius, and Epiphanius (de Mens. et Pond.) of 125; Dionysius of Halicarnassus (IX.27) one of 125 asses, and Hesychius three of 165, 400, and 1125 pounds respectively.

Where talents are mentioned in the classical writers without any specification of the standard, we must generally understand the Attic.

10. Comparison of Grecian Weights with our own. — In calculating the value of Greek weights in terms of our own, the only safe course is to follow the existing coins; and among these (for the reasons stated under Nummus, p811B), it is only the best Attic coins that can be relied on with any certainty, although there are many other coins which afford valuable confirmatory evidence, after the standards to which they belong have been fixed.

Mr. Hussey's computation of the Attic drachma, from the coins, is perhaps a little too low, but it is so very near the truth that we may safely follow it, for the sake of the advantage of using his numbers without alteration. He makes the drachma 66.5 grains. [Drachma; comp. Nummus, p811B: for the other weights see the Tables.]

11. Roman Weights. The outline of the Roman and Italian system of weights, which was the same as the ancient system of copper money, has been already given under As. The system is extremely simple, but its conversion of it our own standard is a question of very considerable difficulty. The following are the different methods of computing it: —

(1) The Roman coins furnish a mode of calculating the weight of the libra, which has been more relied on than any other by most modern writers. The As will scarcely help us in this calculation, because its weight, though originally a pound, was very early diminished, not existing specimens differ from each other very greatly [As], but specimens, which we may suppose to be asses librales, may of course be used as confirmatory evidence. We must therefore look chiefly to the silver and gold coins. Now the average weight of the extant specimens of the denarius is about 60 grains, and in the early ages of the coinage 84 denarii went to the pound [Denarius]. The pound then, by this calculation, would contain 5040 grains. Again, the aurei of the early gold coinage were equal in weight to a scrupulum and its multiples [Aurum]. Now the scrupulum was the 288th part of the pound [Uncia], and the average of the scrupular aurei has been found by Letronne to be about 17½ grains. Hence the pound will be 288 × 17½ = 5040 grains, as before. The next aurei coined were, according to Pliny, 40 to the pound, and therefore, if the above calculation be right, = 126 grains; and we do find many of this weight. But, well as these results hang together, there is great doubt of their truth. For, besides the uncertainty which always attends the process of calculating a larger quantity from a smaller on account of the multiplication of a small error, we have every reason to believe that the existing coins do not come up to their nominal weight, for there was an early tendency in the Roman mint to make money below weight (Plin. N. H. XXXIII.12 x. 46; compare As, Aurum, Denarius), and we have no proof that any extant coins belonged to the very earliest coinage, and therefore no security that they may not have been depreciated. In fact there are many specimens of the denarius extant which weigh more than the above average of 60 grains. It is therefore probable that the weight of 5040 grains, obtained from this source, is too little. Hence, Wurm and Böckh, who also follow the coins, give it a somewhat higher value, the former making it 5053.635 grains, and the latter 5053.28. (Hussey, c. 9; Wurm, c. 2; Böckh, c. 11).

(2) Another mode of determining the pound is from the relation between the Roman weights and measures. The chief measures which aid us in this inquiry are the amphora or quadrantal, and the congius. The solid content of the amphora was equal to that of a cube, of which the side was one Roman foot, and the weight of water it contained was 80 pounds [Quadrantal]. Hence, if we can ascertain the length of the Roman foot independently, it will give us the solid content of the amphora, from which we can deduce the weight of the Roman pound. Taking the Roman foot at 11.65 inches, its cube is 1581.167 cubic inches = 5.7025 imperial gallons — 57.025 pounds avoirdupois, the 80th part of which is .7128 of a pound, or 4989 grains. But there are many disturbing elements in this calculation, of which the chief is our ignorance of the precise density of the fluid, 80 pounds of which filled the amphora.

It might, at first thought, appear that the result might be obtained at once from the congius of Vespasian, which professes to hold 10 Roman pounds [Congius], and the content of which has been twice examined. In 1630, Auzout found it to contain 51463.2 grains of distilled water, which would give 5146.32 grains for the Roman pound. In 1721, Dr. Hase found it to contain 52037.69 grains, giving 5203.77 grains for the Roman pound. Both these results are probably too high, on account of the enlargement which the vessel has undergone by the corrosion of its inner surface; and this view is confirmed by the fact, that the earlier of the two experiments gave it the smaller content. (See Wurm, p78; Böckh, pp166, 167.) Again, the nature of the fluid employed in the experiment, its temperature, and the height of the barometer, would all influence the result, and the error from these sources must occur twice, namely, at the original making of the congius and at the recent weighing of its contents. We can, therefore, by no means agree with Mr. Hussey in taking the weight of 5204 grains, as obtained from this experiment, to be the nearest approximation to the weight of the Roman pound. On the contrary, if this method were followed at all, we  p936 should be compelled to prefer the theoretical calculation from the quadrantal already given, and to say that the value of 5053.28 (or 5053.635) grains, obtained from the coins is too high, rather than too low.

(3) Another method is from existing Roman weights, of which we possess many, but differing so greatly among themselves, that they can give no safe independent result, and their examination is little more than a matter of curiosity. A full account of them will be found in Böckh, pp168‑196.

(4) The determination of the Roman pound from its ratio to the Attic talent, namely, as 1:80 (see Böckh, c. 9) is not to be much relied on; since we do not know whether that ratio was exact, or only approximate.

On the whole, the result obtained from the coins is possibly nearest to the truth.

12. Connection between Weights and Measures. — Upon the interesting, but very difficult subjects of the connection of the Greek and Roman weights with one another, and of both with the Greek measures, our space does not permit us to add anything to the passages quoted from Böckh and Grote under Mensura, p754; and to what is said under Quadrantal.

13. Authorities. — The following are the chief authorities on the subject of ancient weights, money, and measures.

i. Ancient Authorities. — In addition to the classic writers in general, especially the historians and geographers, (1) the Ancient Grammarians and lexicographers contain many scattered notices, some of which are preserved from the lost metrological treatises of Dardanus, Diodorus, Polemarchus, and others. (2) We possess a number of small metrological treatises, which are printed in the fifth volume of Stephanus's Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, and with the works of Galen, vol. XIX ed. Kühn. The most important of them are, that ascribed to Dioscorides, the piece entitled περὶ μέτρων ὑγρῶν, and the extract from the Κοσμητικά of Cleopatra. Besides these, we have a good treatise on the subject, printed in the Benedictine Analecta Graeca, pp393, foll., and in Montfaucon's Paléographie Grecque, pp369, foll.; — two works, of but little value, ascribed to Epiphanius, entitled περὶ μέτρων καὶ σταθμῶν and περὶ πηλικότητος μέτρων, printed in the Varia Sacra of Steph. Le Mayne, vol. I, pp470, foll.; — various writings of Heron (see Dict. of Biog. s.v.): — and a treatise by Didymus of Alexandria, μέτρα μαρμάρων καὶ παντοίων ξύλων, published by Angelo Mai from a MS. in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, 1817, 8vo. Certain difficulties respecting the authorship of some of these works are discussed by Böckh, c. 2. In Latin, we have two works by Priscian; the one in prose, entitled, De Figuris et Nominibus Numerorum et de Nummis ac Ponderibus ad Symmachum Liber; the other is the poem De Ponderibus et Mensuris, in 208 hexameter verses, which is commonly ascribed to Rhemnius Fannius, and which is printed in Wernsdorf's Poetae Latini Minores, vol. V, pt. 1, pp212, foll., and in Weber's Corpus Poetarum Latinorum, pp1369, 1370. The statements of all these metrological writers must be used with great caution on account of their late age. (3) The chief Existing Monuments such as buildings, measures, vessels, weights, and coins, have been mentioned in the articles Mensura, and Nummus. Further information respecting them will be found in Böckh.

ii. Modern Works: see the list given at the end of the article Nummus. The present position of our knowledge is marked by the work of Böckh, so often referred to, with Mr. Grote's review of it. There is no satisfactory English work on the subject. The best, so far as it goes, is the treatise of Raper, in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. LXI. Mr. Hussey's work is very useful, but its value is much impaired by the want of more of that criticism, at once ingenious and sound, which has guided Böckh to so many new and firm results amidst intricacies which were before deemed hopeless.

For a general view of the value of the several weights, measures, and money in terms of our own, see the Tables at the end of this work.


The Author's Notes:

1 The t and sh are merely dialect variations.

2 Which is the true value is doubtful. Perhaps the two values were used at different places, according as the duodecimal or decimal system prevailed.

3 It is necessary here to caution the student against an error, which he might mistake for an ingenious discovery; into which Böckh himself fell in his Public Economy of Athens; and which Mr. Hussey has adopted; and to which therefore the English student is much exposed. This error consists in assuming that both Herodotus and Aelian may be right; and thus that the Babylonian talent was equal to 70 Euboïc or 72 Attic minae; and therefore that the ratio of the Euboïc talent to the Attic was 72:70. It will presently be shown that this ratio was not 72:70, but 100:72, i.e. 72:51.84.

4 The commercial weights underwent a change by the decree mentioned above, which orders that 12 drachmae of the silver standard shall be added to the mina of 138 drachmae; that to every five commercial minae one commercial mina shall be added; and to every commercial talent five commercial minae. Thus we shall have —

the mina = 150 drachmae (silver),
5 minae = 6 minae (commercial),
the talent = 65 minae (commercial).

Thayer's Notes:

a There is a hint of this etymology in Vitruvius III.1.7: "small equal sized pieces of brass . . . which they called oboli".

b The statement that Egyptian words for measurement unit included a cognate of maneh (μνᾶ) is not accurate. Böckh himself, in the passage linked, starts out by saying that only in Coptic is such a cognate found, which would have been taken from Greek — but then bows, excusably, to the Egyptological expertise of Champollion, the man who first broke the hieroglyphic code. Unfortunately for Böckh (and our own author, who basically condenses him thruout) Egyptology has greatly progressed since Champollion, who in this particular matter was quite wrong: thruout the history of Egypt, from Old Kingdom to New, the chief unit was the deben

𓂧𓃀𓈖𓄲

and the names of its subdivisions were also unrelated to maneh.

c The reader will notice that the Greek text of Herodotus as given by his editor and translator A. D. Godley (1921) has 78 minae rather than 70. In his footnote ad loc., Godley readily admits that the text actually does have 70, but that he follows an emendation "now generally adopted", based on a different preconceived metrological notion, for which he finds support elsewhere in Herodotus.

d If you are accustomed to English measurements you know that there are 5280 feet to a mile — two very basic units of length; you may be surprised that one of the prime factors of 5280 is 11: every bit as impractical as 7.


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