Ancient economic historians have long struggled with ancient texts that tell us much about what is wrong with money but little about price formation. ‘Primitivists’ tend to take this as an indication that ancient authors were unable to analyse money in economic terms and that they lacked a conception of the ‘economic’ within which the function of money could be analysed. Yet, more recently, this negative assessment has become the starting point of more positive arguments. Scholars with various theoretical interests have looked at culturally specific meanings of monetary exchange which go beyond the usual complaint that money encourages greed and selfishness. They have demonstrated, among other things, how money operated as a signifier by which relationships, identity and power could be negotiated.