Banker (ancient)

The banker of ancient times was employed within financial activities, during the ancient Mesopotamian, ancient Greek and ancient Roman periods.


While certain families of Mesopotamia might be thought of as banking families, according to one source, these families’ economic activities were not banking proper. This is because the families charged the same for loans as they gave in interest on deposits, so accordingly, their situation with foreign enterprises was one in which they did not participate in arbitrage, in addition to the absence of an economic situation where-by credit provision might increase the quantity of specie (i.e. coins) present with individuals. The House of Egibiwere such a family, living during the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods, and the House Murashu were another, living at a time during the 5th century BCE. In addition to these two, the Borsippa based family, Ea-iluta-bani, were also active during the Neo-Babylonia time-period and later. All three families are classified as merchant bankers by Nemet-Nejat.[1][2][3]

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek bankers were known as τραπεζίται (trapezitai), a term which arose from their use of τράπεζαι (trapeza). They were initially active during the 5th century BCE The trapezitai provided a variety of services, primarily, money-changing, providing interest payments on deposited monies, pawnbrokering, acting as notaries and the safe-guarding of valuables.[4][5][6][7][8]

At the earliest recorded time, trapezitai are known to have participated as private enterprise, who in the first instance were greatly reliant on business generated by money-changing activity, but also accepted deposits and made and took payments from individuals.[6]

Ancient Grecian bankers were in the first case moneychangers (kollybistḗs[9]) and pawnbrokers, who were present in the marketplace or festival sites, changing the coinage of foreign merchants into local currency.[10]

Many early bankers in Greek city-states belonged to the metic classification of citizenship. Money lending was very often an activity for foreigners living as so-called outsiders within society. Business and commercial activities were deemed wholly unsuited to the status and situation of the noble elite of society because these activities were a source of corruption, and instead funds, and accordingly wealth, was obtained primarily by way of militancy, not commerce.[1][11][12]

The task of keeping the deposited wealth provided to the temple of Asklepios were allotted often to the neokoros or zakoros; or at Kos the hierophylakes, who were also the mnemones or record keepers of such exchanges.[13][14]

It was an established pattern of behaviour for a banker in Athens, Aigina and elsewhere, in the interests of the security of the assets entrusted to him, to have his wife wed to his slave after his death, being that his slave had inherited his previous owners bank upon his death.[15]

Individual bankers

The first person to have participated in ancient society to some degree as a banker was named Philostephanos (of Corinth).[16]

A slave named Pasion, for a time owned by Archestratos and Antisthenes, who were partners of a banking firm in Peiraieus, was for a time Athens’ most important banker, after his manumission to the metic class. Pasion operated as a banker from 394 B.C. to sometime during the 370’s. His business was subsequently inherited by his own slave named Phormio.[15][17][18][19][20][21][22]

Hermias was manumitted from Euboulos, and a eunuch, who is attested to have behaved subsequently toward the islands of Assos and Atarneus somehow tyrannically. His adopted daughter married Aristotle, the circumstances of this marriage arranged by Hermias himself.[15]

Ancient Roman

Early bankers were known primarily as MensariiMensularii and Numularii, or argentarii. Additionally to a lesser extent individuals involved in financial activities were known as coactorescoactores argenteriicollectarii, and stipulatores argenterii. Bankers operated from either appointment by the government and so were tasked with collecting taxes, or instead operated independently. Accordingly, Mensarii were distinguished from argenterii by the fact of the former operating under state assistance while the latter participating on the basis of private enterprise. Argenterii evolved to provide the function of credit provision on a short-term basis for individuals at auctions.[4][23][24][25]

Persons employed in the professional capacities of money-changing and assaying were known as argyramoiboi.[26]

According to Callistratus, females were barred from activity as bankers by Roman law.[27]

Individual bankers

  1. Aemilius Papius, M. Atilius Regulus and M. Scribonius Libo were made a three mensariicommission during 216.[28]


  1. ^ Jump up to:ab  Hudson (2012-02-26). Entrepreneurs: From the Near Eastern Takeoff to the Roman Collapse within The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times (p.18-19). published by Princeton University Press The Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. p. 584. ISBN 1400833582. Retrieved 2015-09-08.
  2. ^K Rhea Nemet-Nejat (1998). Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. published by Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313294976. Retrieved 2012-07-27.(info also retrieved 2015-09-10)
  3. ^< Specie > was sourced at The Free Dictionary, specifically Princeton University 2003-2008.,, Farlex Inc [Retrieved 2015-09-08]
  4. ^ Jump up to:ab Piotr Niczyporuk. Mensarii, bankers acting for public and private benefit. Central European Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities 2011. Retrieved 2015-08-30.(please see also the same source linked in full here)
  5. ^Leonhard Schmitz (1875). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (p.130‑132). London: John Murray. Retrieved 2015-08-31.
  6. ^ Jump up to:ab Benjamin Geva (2011-11-01). The Payment Order of Antiquity and the Middle Ages: A Legal History. Bloomsbury Publishing, Hart Monographs in Transnational and International Law. p. 784. ISBN 9781847318664. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  7. ^David Eugene Smith (June 1958). History of Mathematics, Volume 2. Courier Corporation. p. 736. ISBN 9780486204307. Retrieved 2015-09-02.
  8. ^ Bolkestein – Economic Life in Greece’s Golden Age published by E.J.Brill 1958 [Retrieved 2015-08-31]
  9. ^Brill Online Reference Works. Trapezites. Koninklijke Brill NV. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  10. ^L Adkins; R A. Adkins (1998). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Oxford University Press, 16 Jul 1998. ISBN 9780195123326. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  11. ^D T Engen. The Economy of Ancient Greece. Economic History Association. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  12. ^L De Blois, RJ Van Der Spek – An Introduction To the Ancient World Routledge, 26 Sep 1997 Retrieved 2012-07-15 ISBN 0415127742
  13. ^B Burrell -Neokoroi: Greek Cities and Roman Emperors BRILL, 2004 ISBN 9004125787Retrieved 2012-06-09
  14. ^E M Craik The Dorian Aegean Routledge, 1980 ISBN 0710003781 Retrieved 2012-06-09
  15. ^ Jump up to:ab c Edward Cohen (1997-01-26). Athenian Economy and Society: A Banking Perspective. published by Princeton University Press. p. 312. ISBN 0691015929. Retrieved 2015-08-31.
  16. ^SL Budin – The Ancient Greeks: New Perspectives ABC-CLIO, 2004 Retrieved 2012-07-17 ISBN 1576078140
  17. ^David Matz (March 2012). Voices of Ancient Greece and Rome: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life. ABC-CLIO, 1 Mar 2012. ISBN 9780313387388. Retrieved 2015-02-12.
  18. ^W Smith, LLD; W Wayte; G. E. Marindin (eds.). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890). Perseus of Tufts University. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  19. ^R Osborne – Greek History Psychology Press, 6 Jul 2004 Retrieved 2012-06-15
  20. ^W Slatyer – Life/Death Rhythms of Ancient Empires – Climatic Cycles Influence Rule of Dynasties: A Predictable Pattern of Religion, War, Prosperity and Debt Trafford Publishing, 21 May 2012 Retrieved 2012-07-15 ISBN 1466926503
  21. ^M I Finley – Studies in Land and Credit in Ancient Athens, 500-200 B.C.: The Horos Inscriptions Transaction Publishers, 1951 ISBN 0887380662 Retrieved 2012-06-15
  22. ^T Amemiya – Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece Retrieved 2012-07-15
  23. ^Leonhard Schmitz (1853). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. published byC.C. Little and J. Brown 1853, 750 pages. Retrieved 2015-08-30.(also shown here)
  24. ^J W Gilbart (1834). The history and principles of banking: The laws of the currency, etc. G. Bell, 1866. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  25. ^B. Hollander (2007-02-26). Money in the Late Roman Republic (p.55). published by BRILL Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition. p. 208. ISBN 9789047419129. Retrieved 2015-09-09.
  26. ^Jean Andreau – Banking and Business in the Roman World Cambridge University Press14 Oct 1999 (reprint), 176 pages, ISBN 0521389321 [Retrieved 2015-09-03]
  27. ^ Benke (2012). Gender and the Roman Law of Obligations in Obligations in Roman Law: Past, Present, and Future. published by University of Michigan Press Volume 33 of Papers And Monographs Of The American Academy In Rome. p. 367. ISBN 0472118439. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  28. ^Rachel Feig Vishnia (12 Nov 2012). State, Society and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome 241-167 B.C. Routledge. p. 280. ISBN 1135093717. Retrieved 2015-09-01.

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