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Herodotus 4:166

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  • robtyenow
    Back in August, Marc Cooper (Message 13495) quoted this story from Book 4 of Herodotus: 4:166. Now this Aryandes had been appointed ruler of the province of
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 9, 2011
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      Back in August, Marc Cooper (Message 13495) quoted this story from Book 4 of Herodotus:

      4:166. Now this Aryandes had been appointed ruler of the province of Egypt by Cambyses; and after the time of these events he lost his life because he would measure himself with Dareios. For having heard and seen that Dareios desired to leave behind him as a memorial of himself a thing which had not been made by any other king, he imitated him, until at last he received his reward: for whereas Dareios refined gold and made it as pure as possible, and of this caused coins to be struck, Aryandes, being ruler of Egypt, did the same thing with silver; and even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic. Dareios then having learnt that he was doing this put him to death, bringing against him another charge of attempting rebellion.

      This text has intrigued recent writers Howgego, Kurke and Seaford. But I think I unraveled what was really going on in 2009, and (finally) find time to type it up here, to seek criticism.

      The problems with the text as it stands are well known. Firstly, Aryandes does not seem to have struck any coins, and secondly, the gold coins of Darius are not particularly pure. So what is going on?

      I propose there has been a specific misunderstanding.

      Exact weight has been confused with exact purity.

      This seems to happen regularly, perhaps in all cultures. For instance, sterling seems to have referred originally primarily to a weight standard (the c. 1.46g sterling penny and its c. 350g pound). Also the kayl dirhem, in Islam, was originally struck according to the kayl pound. Kayl purity again is a derivative matter, due to the same sort of misunderstanding

      The whole story seems to make perfect sense if we make this transformation. It has been widely argued that the early electrum coins were tariffed with a significant fiduciary component of value. Subsequently, when Croesus produced his gold coin, he seems to have struck to the very ancient Mesopotamian standard, but reduced it by just 2% (to c. 8.16g) - not so much a seigniorage as a making charge. Darius seems to have abolished this charge completely, striking gold coin to the full blooded Mesopotamian standard (c. 8.33g)

      So I propose that it was the striking of full weight coin that was the "memorial of himself, a thing which had not been made by any other king" that Darius boasted of. All the talk of purity is a red herring.

      Moving on, the switch to full weight gold seems to accompany a bigger deduction in the weight of the silver coin of Darius. The charge being roughly doubled from Croesus (2%) up to around 4%. So initially, D seems to have paid for his prestige full value gold issue by loading the costs onto the silver user. This may well have had significant financial implications for Aryandes in Egypt. The Egyptian system was still closely tied to payment in bullion by weight, so by default, Aryandes always paid his silver at full weight. Perhaps Aryandes forgot to turn his microphone off whilst discussing this matter?

      What we do see, late on in D's reign, is further weight reform. The late silver coins also come to be struck at full weight, free of all charges.

      Thus this one transformation seems to remove most of our perplexity about the story in the text.

      It seems to me just one puzzle remains. That is the perplexing phrase "even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic". If this is true, my proffered explanation is not really sufficient.

      My suggestion on this is that this was not true. It was a deliberately false embellishment, perhaps made by Herodotus himself. It concerned far away Egyptian matters, which Greeks in the main may not have been informed upon.

      Although we cannot be sure, in the days of Herodotus, figures suggest that even at Athens, silver was coined with a 2% making charge applied, and with c. 6% seigniorage at many other places. Thus giving a truthful account of these events might have been grist to the mill of dissent, in the hands of ancient Greeks with what we might call jokingly call tea party type leanings.

      I have simplified the metrological matters somewhat above. Full details can be found in

      http://earlyworldcoins.com/bookshop/ewc-and-ews

      Robert Tye, York, UK
    • RUSSELLGMIRKIN@aol.com
      Robert Tye, I have no opinion about your theory, but how do you account for the mention of Aryandic silver by Hesychius, and especially to the exceptional
      Message 2 of 6 , Nov 9, 2011
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        Robert Tye,

        I have no opinion about your theory, but how do you account for the
        mention of Aryandic silver by Hesychius, and especially to the exceptional
        purity of Aryandic silver at Julius Pollux 8.23? It doesn't appear to be
        unique to Herodotus. One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
        grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus. Is that your position?

        Best regards,
        Russell Gmirkin

        It seems to me just one puzzle remains. That is the perplexing phrase
        "even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic". If this is true,
        my proffered explanation is not really sufficient.

        My suggestion on this is that this was not true. It was a deliberately
        false embellishment, perhaps made by Herodotus himself. It concerned far away
        Egyptian matters, which Greeks in the main may not have been informed upon.







        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • robtyenow
        Dear Russell (if I may) RG That is my position,
        Message 3 of 6 , Nov 10, 2011
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          Dear Russell (if I may)

          RG <<One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
          grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus>>

          That is my position, albeit one I adopted very recently.

          Joking aside, I see no problem with the suggestion. It seems Hesychius and Pollux were in the dictionary trade, and its surely plausible that Herodotus was their (sole) source for the word?

          After all, how would H and P ever recognised this so called Aryandic silver? I recall no one today in the numismatic world who sees any evidence at all that Aryandes produced coin. Named copies of Athenian tetradrachms from Egypt are very rare and appear only under significantly later satraps.

          best regards

          Robert Tye
          York, UK

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, RUSSELLGMIRKIN@... wrote:
          >
          >
          > Robert Tye,
          >
          > I have no opinion about your theory, but how do you account for the
          > mention of Aryandic silver by Hesychius, and especially to the exceptional
          > purity of Aryandic silver at Julius Pollux 8.23? It doesn't appear to be
          > unique to Herodotus. One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
          > grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus. Is that your position?
          >
          > Best regards,
          > Russell Gmirkin
          >
          > It seems to me just one puzzle remains. That is the perplexing phrase
          > "even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic". If this is true,
          > my proffered explanation is not really sufficient.
          >
          > My suggestion on this is that this was not true. It was a deliberately
          > false embellishment, perhaps made by Herodotus himself. It concerned far away
          > Egyptian matters, which Greeks in the main may not have been informed upon.
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
        • MarcC
          Let me add another citation: Peter G. van Alfen. Herodotus Aryandic Silver and Bullion Use in Persian-Period Egypt. American Journal of Numismatics, Second
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 10, 2011
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            Let me add another citation:

            Peter G. van Alfen. Herodotus' "Aryandic" Silver and Bullion Use in Persian-Period Egypt. American Journal of Numismatics, Second Series 16-17 (2004-05) 7-46.

            Alfen takes the position that "Aryandic" denotes silver of the highest quality.

            Marc Cooper
            Missouri State

            --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "robtyenow" <robtyenow@...> wrote:
            >
            > Dear Russell (if I may)
            >
            > RG <<One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
            > grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus>>
            >
            > That is my position, albeit one I adopted very recently.
            >
            > Joking aside, I see no problem with the suggestion. It seems Hesychius and Pollux were in the dictionary trade, and its surely plausible that Herodotus was their (sole) source for the word?
            >
            > After all, how would H and P ever recognised this so called Aryandic silver? I recall no one today in the numismatic world who sees any evidence at all that Aryandes produced coin. Named copies of Athenian tetradrachms from Egypt are very rare and appear only under significantly later satraps.
            >
            > best regards
            >
            > Robert Tye
            > York, UK
            >
            > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            >
            > --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, RUSSELLGMIRKIN@ wrote:
            > >
            > >
            > > Robert Tye,
            > >
            > > I have no opinion about your theory, but how do you account for the
            > > mention of Aryandic silver by Hesychius, and especially to the exceptional
            > > purity of Aryandic silver at Julius Pollux 8.23? It doesn't appear to be
            > > unique to Herodotus. One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
            > > grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus. Is that your position?
            > >
            > > Best regards,
            > > Russell Gmirkin
            > >
            > > It seems to me just one puzzle remains. That is the perplexing phrase
            > > "even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic". If this is true,
            > > my proffered explanation is not really sufficient.
            > >
            > > My suggestion on this is that this was not true. It was a deliberately
            > > false embellishment, perhaps made by Herodotus himself. It concerned far away
            > > Egyptian matters, which Greeks in the main may not have been informed upon.
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > >
            >
          • robtyenow
            Many thanks for this. I have written to Peter van Alfen in case he wishes to comment. Detailed discussions of the links between metrology, seigniorage and the
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 11, 2011
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              Many thanks for this. I have written to Peter van Alfen in case he wishes to comment.

              Detailed discussions of the links between metrology, seigniorage and the political economy are hard to find in the literature on Ancient Greece and the ANE. I raised this matter with Andrew Meadows a long while back, when he joined the BM staff. My copy of the recent von Reden book is in the mail, and I have hopes this will start to rectify matters.

              There is a much greater awareness of what seem to me to be fundamentally the same issues in connection with the medieval European Economy. See for instance the 2009 criticism of the work of economists Sargent and Velde by the historian Munro.

              Robert Tye, York, UK


              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "MarcC" <marc.cooper@...> wrote:
              >
              > Let me add another citation:
              >
              > Peter G. van Alfen. Herodotus' "Aryandic" Silver and Bullion Use in Persian-Period Egypt. American Journal of Numismatics, Second Series 16-17 (2004-05) 7-46.
              >
              > Alfen takes the position that "Aryandic" denotes silver of the highest quality.
              >
              > Marc Cooper
              > Missouri State
              >
              > --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "robtyenow" <robtyenow@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Dear Russell (if I may)
              > >
              > > RG <<One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
              > > grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus>>
              > >
              > > That is my position, albeit one I adopted very recently.
              > >
              > > Joking aside, I see no problem with the suggestion. It seems Hesychius and Pollux were in the dictionary trade, and its surely plausible that Herodotus was their (sole) source for the word?
              > >
              > > After all, how would H and P ever recognised this so called Aryandic silver? I recall no one today in the numismatic world who sees any evidence at all that Aryandes produced coin. Named copies of Athenian tetradrachms from Egypt are very rare and appear only under significantly later satraps.
              > >
              > > best regards
              > >
              > > Robert Tye
              > > York, UK
              > >
            • Bea Hopkinson
              I have the impression that Heroditus defines mineral differences and qualities by the name of the site where these minerals were exploited. Has anybody found
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 11, 2011
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                I have the impression that Heroditus defines mineral differences and
                qualities by the name of the site where these minerals were exploited.
                Has anybody found otherwise?

                Beatrice Hopkinson
                Hon.Sec. Los Angeles Branch, Oxford University Soc.
                American Institute of Archaeology, Los Angeles Board Member
                Cotsen Institute, Affiliate
                President, Droitwich Brine Springs and Archaeological Trust
                818 766 7780 Email:beahopkinson@...

                marc.cooper@...

                >Let me add another citation:
                >
                >Peter G. van Alfen. Herodotus' "Aryandic" Silver and Bullion Use in
                >Persian-Period Egypt. American Journal of Numismatics, Second Series 16-17
                >(2004-05) 7-46.
                >
                >Alfen takes the position that "Aryandic" denotes silver of the highest
                >quality.
                >
                >Marc Cooper
                >Missouri State
                >
                >--- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "robtyenow" <robtyenow@...> wrote:
                >>
                >> Dear Russell (if I may)
                >>
                >> RG <<One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD, Alexandrian
                >> grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus>>
                >>
                >> That is my position, albeit one I adopted very recently.
                >>
                >> Joking aside, I see no problem with the suggestion. It seems Hesychius and
                >Pollux were in the dictionary trade, and its surely plausible that
                >Herodotus was their (sole) source for the word?
                >>
                >> After all, how would H and P ever recognised this so called Aryandic
                silver?
                >I recall no one today in the numismatic world who sees any evidence at all
                >that Aryandes produced coin. Named copies of Athenian tetradrachms from
                >Egypt are very rare and appear only under significantly later satraps.
                >>
                >> best regards
                >>
                >> Robert Tye
                >> York, UK
                >>
                >> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                >>
                >> --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, RUSSELLGMIRKIN@ wrote:
                >> >
                >> >
                >> > Robert Tye,
                >> >
                >> > I have no opinion about your theory, but how do you account for the
                >> > mention of Aryandic silver by Hesychius, and especially to the exceptional
                >> > purity of Aryandic silver at Julius Pollux 8.23? It doesn't appear to be
                >> > unique to Herodotus. One could argue that Julian Pollux (2nd AD,
                >Alexandrian
                >> > grammarian who taught at Athens) drew on Herodotus. Is that your position?
                >> >
                >> > Best regards,
                >> > Russell Gmirkin
                >> >
                >> > It seems to me just one puzzle remains. That is the perplexing phrase
                >> > "even now the purest silver is that which is called Aryandic". If this
                is
                >true,
                >> > my proffered explanation is not really sufficient.
                >> >
                >> > My suggestion on this is that this was not true. It was a deliberately
                >> > false embellishment, perhaps made by Herodotus himself. It concerned far
                >away
                >> > Egyptian matters, which Greeks in the main may not have been informed
                >upon.
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >
                >> > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >> >
                >>
                >
                >
                >
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