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European Greeks; how in the times of Demosthenes, for instance, the precious metals were worth five times less than in the days of Solon. The current then was from the east to the west; and the influx of gold was so great that while, when Herodotus lived, the ratio of gold to silver was as 1 : 13, it became at the death of Alexander and for a hundred years after, as 1 : 10.*
The less general and extensive were commercial relations in the ancient world, the more great and sudden must, of course, have been the variations in relative value of gold and silver. Thus, in Rome, we find that in consequence of a local accumulation of one of the precious metals, a little while after the conquest of Syracuse, the ratio of gold to silver was as 1 : 177; while under Julius Cæsar, it fell for some time to 1:811. Also the less the quantity of one metal existing in any country, the more easy it is to produce these enormous fluctuations by an importation from abroad. The world at present, by the universality and promptness of relations which must balance throughout, and by the magnitude of the existing quantities of gold and silver, tends to maintain a stability in the relative value of the two metals. After the wars of Independence, the product in metal of Spanish America continued for some years to be only the third of its previous annual mean; and yet it is not to this circumstance even, that we are to attribute the slight oscillations which are manifested here and there. It is quite otherwise with the ratio of silver to another metal which has been obtained as yet only in small quantity, and which is besides very unequally distributed— I mean, platinum.
We do not find among the ancients any statistical data indicating some general result to be compared with what we know of the actual metallic product of entire countries. Their administrative policy offered none of those controls which the complex and refined tariffsystem of the Arabs—that commercial people, who calculated every thing and tabulated all-communicated in after-times to the States of southern and western Europe. The assertion of Pliny (xii. 18,) that the commerce with India, Serica, (China) and Yemen was drawing every year from the Roman Empire a hundred million sesterces in the precious metals, that is to say, according to Letronne, estimating these sesterces according to the value of silver at that epoch, 33000 markweights of silver; (the half only of what the silver mines of Saxony produce annually)—this assertion is isolated and problematical.
In this defect of general results, it would be important to have numerical instances of the partial wealth in money of certain mining districts; which we might compare with the yield of similar regions now, weight for weight in an absolute sense, and without considering gold as the measure in value of determinate quantities of cereal grains. The treasure which a sovereign leaves as the fruit of conquest or of long exactions, testifies only what may have been accumulated over an indefinite extent of country and in a period which we cannot count.
• See the learned rectification of the monetary hypothesis of Garnier by Letronne: Considerations, &c. (General Considerations upon the value of the Greek and Roman Money.) 1817, p. 112.
Results of this last kind may, however, be compared with the data which statists venture to give upon the quantity of precious metals existing in a State at some certain epoch. Thus Cyrus, in the account of Pliny (xxxiii. 15,) collected from his conquest of Asia, 34000 pounds of gold, not counting what had been converted into plate; and yet this quantity hardly equals the fruit of two years work in the mines of the Ural. Again, Appian, upon documents, estimates the treasure of Ptolemy Philadelphus at 740000 talents; that is to say, 700 millions of Spanish dollars, if they were Egyptian talents, or 180 millions if they were the smaller talents of Ptolemy. “This assertion seems fabulous” says the celebrated author of the Political Economy of the Athenians, “but I do not venture to question the veracity of the historian. In this treasure was a large quantity of gold and silver manufactured. The States of this Prince were entirely exhausted; imposts and taxes were extorted by greedy farmers-general with arms. The revenues of Cæle-Syria, Phenicia, Judea and Samaria, alone, were farmed out by Ptolemy Evergetes for 8000 talents; and a Jew bought them at a hundred per cent. advance.” Mr. William Jacob, in an excellent work published at the request of Mr. Secretary Huskisson, under the title of Historical Enquiry on Precious Metals, (vol. i. p. 23,) confirms the assertion of the great German philosopher. The higher of the two estimates above would approach the quantity of coin actually in circulation in France and Belgium; the lower would nearly equal the coin circulating in England.* According to Strabo, Alexander succeeded in collecting at Ecbatana 380000 talents. It must not be forgotten, that whilst now, the precious metals are spread more equally over great extents of country and among dense populations; then, they were concentrated at a few points of the earth and in the treasuries of sovereigns.
Undoubtedly, the great quantity of gold which was pouring westward, came from the interior of Asia, from the north-north-east of Ladaklı (Western Thibet) from the upper part of the basin of the Oxus. (between the Hindoo-Khosh and the highlands of Panez, on the western slope of the Bolor) from Bactriana and the easteri satrapies of the Persian Empire; but it is easier to determine the direction of the current
* From the researches of Mr. Michel Chevalier, (Letters on N. America, v. i. p. 394) the coin circulating in France, is valued at 3000 millions and, in England, at 2200 millions of francs; while Adam Smith rates that of Great Britain at 30 millions of pounds sterling only. In the Prussian States, the circulation is, according to Hoffmann, only from 90 to 120 millions of thalers. The minting in Prussia from 1764 to 1836, of all kinds of coin, including the fifteenths of a thaler, amounts, subtracting what has been withdrawn during that time by the mint itself, to 182.856.020 thalers. (Die Lehre von Gelde, [Science of the Mint, by J. G. Hoffinann,) 1838, p. 171) The assemblage of such large sums as these may throw some light upon the data left us by antiquity.
+ The treasure' left by Cyrus was almost three times as large as this. Pliny (xxx. 3,) values it at 500060 talents in gold and silver. As this treasure may have diminished considerably after the d. ath of Cyrus, Sainte-Croix ( Examen Crit. des Historiens d'Alexandré, p. 429,) concludes that the whole of the precious metal which the Macedonian collected in Persia, amounted but to 330000 talents. Upon the almost unexampled concentration of precious metals in Italy, under the Cæsars, see Letronne, u. s. p. 121. | Burnes: Travels in Bokhara, v. ii. p. 265.
of specie than the particular position of its different sources and their relative abundance. The place where grew the story of the goldguarding ants,* scattered over the mountains of Derden, must be far off from the griffins of the Arimaspians. This story seems to belong to the plains of Kaschgar and Askou, between the parallel chains of the celestial mountains (the Thian-chan of the Chinese and Mouzdagh of the Turks) and of the Kouenloun where the river Tarim pours itself into the Lop. We shall recur presently to the Arimaspians dwelling much farther to the north, when we come to speak of the great masses of gold found in the Ural, immediately under the surface. The same of the riches of India echoed even as far as Persia; to be there, it is true, very often misinterpreted. Ctesias,t of the family of the Asclepiades, the physician of Arlaxerxes Mnemon, describes, almost without being aware, under the image of a fountain of gold, an actual furnace whence the fluid metal run into vases, i. e. into clay moulds. Nearer to the Greeks were found Lydia channelled with rivers that flow from the Tmolus, Phrygia and Colchis, districts rich in gold. The nature of the auriferous soil here, so easy to exhaust, explains to the practical miner how some of these countries visited again, seem barren to the explorer. If for instance now, one were to examine the ravines and vallies of Cuba and of S. Domingo, or even the coast of Veragua, how difficult, without the historical evidence which we possess, would it be to believe the richness of the mines of these very regions at the close of the 15th century! Under-ground mining, properly so called, of auriserous veins, lasts a much longer time, when no external circumstance disturbs it. · Precisely because we do not know in advance the whole deposite, for the mine discovers itself in proportion as it is worked, a more durable element is offered to human activity. How few of the forty gold-washing sites, so carefully described by Strabo, can be recognized now! This observation, founded upon positive analogies and upon the recognized principles of mining, is all the more to be made here, since a vain scepticism triumphs in attempting to shake the traditions of Antiquity.
The part of Europe known to the Greeks, was in respect to its metallic wealth, as much behind Asia, as later, the whole European Continent was behind the New World. This last ratio,f that is to say, the relative intensity of product in Europe and America, was, at the commencement of the 19th century, when the mines of the Spanish colonies were worked in their greatest activity, for gold as 1 : 13 and for silver as 1 : 15. I apprehend even, that such a ratio, at the period of Alexander and of the Ptolemies, would be found, if one had only statistical data upon it, still more unfavorable for Europe, especially in regard to gold. "Greece herself, it is true, together with the at first very productive silver mines of Laurium, had a considerable amount of gold
* [Herod. jj. 102. Plin. H. N. xi. 36.]
| The eleinents of this estimate are contained in the 11th chapter of my Essai Politique, &c. (Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain] t. üi. p. 40. [Paris, 1811, 8vo.) The relative produce of gold was then 1300 kil. and 17300 kil. [2800 lb. and 38000 lb. avoirdupois, nearly :) and the relative produce of silver was 52700 kil. and 795600 kil. [equal to 116000 lb. and 1750000 16. avdp. Dearly. ]
in the mines of Thessaly, in the, Pangæan mountains on the frontiers of Macedon and Thrace, and amid the early establishments* of the Phenicians opposite to the island of Thrasos. Iberia, too, was a region of silver for others than the Phenicians and Carthaginians. Tartessus and Ophir, (this last being either Arabiat or the eastern coast of Africa, or even, as Heeren will have it, a generic appellative designating indefinitely the rich countries of the South) were the double object of the united fleets of Solomon and Hiram. Although amid all the metallic wealth of Spain, the silver of Bætica (Andalusia) and of the district of Carthagena, a city founded by Hamilcar Barca, was for a long while the principal object of foreign commerce; nevertheless, during many a year, Gallicia, Lusitania, and above all, the Asturias, furnished 20000 pounds of gold, I that is to say, almost as much as Brazil at the most flourishing epoch of its mines. There is nothing astonishing, therefore, in the Iberian peninsula, early visited, acquiring with the Phenicians and Carthaginians the reputation of a Western El-dorado. There is no doubt that in many localities which shew now only faint metallic traces, the original soil formerly was covered quite near the surface with beds of auriferous sand, or sown with the debris of some formerly massive ore containing gold. The local importance of these mines of southern Europe is incontestable; but in comparison with Asia, their metallic product was small. This last continent remained for a long time the principal source of the precious metals; and the direction of the current that brought gold into Europe, could only be from East to West. But Asia itself, that is to say, the report spread by travellers in the
of immense treasures existing in Zipangou, (Japan) and the Southern Archipelago, [Oronesia] produced a sudden change in the direction of this metallic current. America was discovered, not as has been erroneously said so long, because Columbus foresaw the existence of another continent; but because he was seeking westward a shorter road to Zipangou, so rich in gold, and to the spice countries in southeastern Asia. Thus the greatest mistake of geography, (that is, the idea of Spain's proximity to India) led to the greatest discovery of geography. Christopher Columbus and Americus Vespucius both died under the firm conviction of having reached Eastern Asia, (India with the basin of the Ganges, the peninsula of Cattigara :) and hence there can never arise any dispute between them as to the glory of discovering a new continent.
At Cuba, Columbus meant to deliver to the Great Khan of the Mongols, the letters of his sovereign. He believes himself in Mangi, the
• Otfr. Müller, History of the Hellenic tribes, t. i. p. 115. Gold-mine near Skapte Hyle (Böckh, Corp. Inscrip. t. i. p. 219.)
On this subject so often treated, see a Memoir of remarkable philological critieism, by Dr. Keil, of Dorpat. De la Navigation, &c. (On the Voyage to Ophir and Tarshish,} 1834, p. 61, 70.
Böckh, Economie Politique, t. i. p. 15. The port of Carthage even holds a sand of gold thrown in by the Mediterranean, between the river Miliana and cape SidiBou-Saïd. The inhabitants, who are poor, turn it to profit at this day. Dureau de la Malle, Recherches, &c. [Researches into the topography of Carthage,] 1835, p.
|| Letronne, p. 105, 123.
southern region of Cathay, (China;) he looks for Quien-sai, the celestial city described by Marco Polo, now Hang-tchen-sou. “The island of Hispaniola (Hayti)" writes he* to Pope Alexander VI. “is Tarshish, Ophir and Zipangou. In my second voyage I have discovered 1400 islands and a shore of 333 miles, belonging to the continent of Asia (de la tierra firma de Asia.)” This West-Indian Zipangou produced goldspangles (pepitas de oro) weighing 8, 10, and up to 20 pounds.
America, from the moment of its discovery, became the principal source of the precious metals. The new current directed itself from West to East; indeed, it crossed Europe, inasmuch as in the developement of commerce after navigators had doubled Africa, it became necessary to give to southern and eastern Asia a larger equivalent in exchange for spices, silk and pigments.
As before the discovery of the silver mines of Tasco, upon the western slope of the Mexican Cordilleras, (in 1522) America furnished only gold, Isabella of Castile found herself obliged, already in 1497, 10 modify considerably the legal ratio of the two precious metals. The monetary edict of Medina,f whose date is so remote, and to which up to this time so little importance has been attached, can only be accounted for by this circumstance and by the accumulation of gold at a few points in Europe. I have elsewhere sought to demonstrate hor, from 1492 to 1500, the whole quantity of gold drawn from the then discovered portions of the New World, amounted hardly to an annual mean of 2000 marcs, [1000 lb. avoirdupois, nearly.) Pope Alexander VI. who thought that he was bestowing one-half of the earth upon the Spaniards, received in return as a present from Ferdinand the Catholic, some little spangles of gold from Hayti “as the first fruits of a country newly discovered," to gild the magnificent dome (the soffit of the dome, (soffitto) ] of the basilica of the S. Maria Maggion. Mention is made of the metal in an inscription; as being quod primo Catholici reges ex Indiâ receperant (what the Catholic Sovereigns bad first received from India.]
So great was then the activity of the Spanish Government, that already in 1495, as the historian Muñoz has shown, a miner, Pablo Belvis, was
* Letter of February, 1502, found in the archives of the Duke of Varaguas. The third voyage, in which the continent of South America was discovered, (on 1 August, 1498, thirteen months after the discovery of North America by Sebastian Cabot) and the fourth voyage which gave the first information as to the western coast of the New world, only confirmed the aged Admiral in his preconceived opinion. It is not from any confusion of ideas that, in his letter to the pope and his manifest inclination to shew there a certain amount of biblical learning, he represents the naines Tarshish, Ophir and Zipangou as synonyms of San Domingo: this belonged, as we see by other writings of Columbus, to his systematic notions. He considered, not India exactly, but Japan (Zipangou) certainly to be the Ophir of Solomon, which he calls also sometimes Sopora. "He regarded Tarshish, not as the Iberian Tartes. sus, but with the Septuagint and many theologians of the middle ages, as a common name. The voyage of Solomon, was not, in his view, a double navigation, having a part in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. It had no other point of departure than Ezimgeber. Columbus knew Quien-sai from a letter of Toscanelli, and not through Marco Polo, whom he never mentions, though the contrary bas been hitherto maintained.
+ Memorias de la R. A. &c. [Memoirs of the Royal Academy of History,] t. vi. p. 523. The edict of Medina changed the old legal ratio of 1: 10,7.