34 Pages

Money and Property

WithVictor Ehrenberg

The Athenians would not have been Greeks if money and property had not meant a great deal to them. Here too comedy reflects real life, for it has more references to money than any other literary source. Moreover, it does not weary us with moralizing speeches about avarice, meanness and extravagance, nor with long discussions of complicated legal cases. Money appears in its real function, as the permanent and necessary basis of life for every individual human being. We are left in no doubt that money was in fact the basic factor in Athenianthere is another small coin sometimes mentioned in comedy economy. It is significant that money sometimes appears in metaphors, very much as it may occur in modern languages. Sokrates asks: ‘What kind of gods do you swear by? You must know first of all that gods are not current coin with us.’ 1 The gods of Euripides are called ‘a new coinage’, and a bad man was called ‘of base coinage’; substantially the same phrase was used for a worthless coin. 2 ‘Stamp’ and ‘character’ was one word used for coins and men alike, and gold as well as men could be ‘adulterated’. 3