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to political development, was certainly unfavourable to large and safe trade. Their constant wars and disputes made all international treaties transient and uncertain, and the keen speculator, the man of large views and great capital, never had the same scope for his talents which was afforded him by the Roman Empire, or by the great modern states. The nearest approach to a large business was that established by the banker Pasion1, of whom I shall speak presently, who was the generally acknowledged banker for all foreign merchants, and who commanded credit all over the Hellenic world.
But there were several laws tolerated in the best Attic days, which prove in themselves that even the Athenians had no real capacity for business, or any complicated conditions of property. I allude above all to the well known àvridoris, or exchange of property, about which we hear so much in the Attic. orators. In the first place their taxes were not consolidated rates, regularly payable, but occasional and varying charges, imposed in the case of war or other public necessity, and generally for the outfit of a fleet. The tax was then struck in proportion to assessed property. It was actually the law at Athens on such occasions, that any citizen who was charged for the outfit of a ship, and thought that some richer man had been passed by, could challenge this other to accept the burden, and if he refused, compel him to
1 I should observe that Nicias had 1000 slaves working for him in the mines of Laurium, but this was a business not requiring the large intelligence shown by Pasion.
exchange properties for the space of a year. No law can be conceived more absurd. Any man whose property consisted in numerous investments, could not transfer it to a stranger without the chance of absolute ruin, and even in the treatment of landed property, a change of masters for one year might destroy the labour of a life, and ruin all the improvements and the outlay of years of toil. We can imagine a man preferring to submit to the most unjust burdens in preference to such an alternative. Of course it disposed men to hide their wealth, to give false returns of it, and to resort to all manner of deceit, as we can see from the speeches of Isocrates and Demosthenes (against Phænippus) on this subject. It seems simply the legislation of the Athenian mob about property which they had never possessed and did not understand, for the other alternative-that Athenian properties were small or of a simple nature, like our rentals of estates-is refuted by the many descriptions of property in the orators. It is in fact inexplicable that any intelligent people should have tolerated such a law, and it is conclusive against the business capacity of the men who tolerated it.
Similarly absurd were the arrangements for managing the ships so provided. It often occurred that two or more citizens were required to join in the expense of keeping a single ship afloat. In such cases the system obliged one of them to fit out the ship, and sail with it till his share of the time had elapsed, when the other was bound to come out, and take the ship with all its appointments off the hands of his partner in the burden.
He might, however, consider these appointments too expensive, or unsound, in which case he might refuse to take them, and refit the ship for himself. Can anything more clumsy or foolish be imagined? In the case from which we know these details, that of Apollodorus against Polycles, the former had gone to great expense and done everything very handsomely. He was to be succeeded in a certain time by Polycles, but the latter, though he came out to the fleet in the Thracian waters, delayed or refused to take over the ship. He alleged that Apollodorus' ostentation had made him fit out the vessel absurdly, and that he could not take the appointments at a valuation: he did not, and perhaps could not supply himself in Thrace; so Apollodorus was left for months on duty beyond his time, and was sent by the generals on all manner of state missions, which inflicted upon him expense and hardship1. But suppose he had left the ship and gone home, what would have been the consequences? And in any case, he was a grumbling and unwilling paymaster, who only waited for his return to bring an action against Polycles, and recover from him his undue expenses.
Such a system was evidently not based on sound business principles, and shows a want of the faculty which the Romans, and many modern nations have acquired. Thus, to revert to money matters, we find frequently in the orators assertions that intelligent men of business hid money in the ground. This was one of the pleas put forward by the guardians of 1 Demosthenes, pp. 1206, sqq.
Demosthenes 1, to show that all the property of his father had not come into their hands, and yet the elder Demosthenes was evidently a thriving man of business, keeping up two large establishments for the purpose of two distinct manufactures. Though the allegation was false, the fact of its being made, and not ridiculed, shows that such stupid hiding of money was not uncommon 2.
But it must be added that some weight should be allowed to the bad condition of banks and banking. We know that in older days the temples were used as safe places for the deposit of treasure; we also know that loans could be effected from them, and they may therefore be regarded as the earliest banks in Greece. But we are in ignorance as to the terms they imposed, and indeed it may be doubted whether they lent money to individuals, and did not confine themselves to State loans. In Attic days we find no attempt made by the State either to work or to guarantee a bank, and thus this important business was left to individuals. I say to individuals, for the remarkable business invention of joint-stock companies was beyond the reach of the old Greeks, who never advanced beyond ordinary partnerships. There were
1 Κατ' Αφόβου, β. p. 830.
2 Thus the Irish farming classes, a people quite innocent of business habits, used in the last generation to keep the money they saved in an old stocking under the thatch; in the present they have advanced so far as to deposit it in the local banks at one-and-a-half per cent. interest. They never dream of any better investment. These banks have an enormous capital at so cheap a cost, that they are able to make great profits, and their shares are often 100 per cent. above par.
then a large number of private banks and bankers at
1 Demosth. Пpòs popμ. sub. fin. There is a most interesting text of
2 ἀνασκευάζεσθαι (τὴν τραπέζαν) was the technical term for a bank breaking.
3 Dem. Ὑπὲρ Φορμ. 948, 9.