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Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Money and the Construction of the Inner Self in Ancient Greece
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Money and the Construction of the Inner Self in Ancient Greece

18 pages · 3.61 EUR
(November 2016)

 
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Introduction:

Coinage was invented around 600 BCE, as a way of dividing Lydian electrum into small equal portions, and thereafter spread rapidly among the Greek cities, where it created the first thoroughly monetised society in history. In my Money and the Early Greek Mind (2004) I argued for the importance of monetisation as a factor in the origin and development of Greek philosophy and of Athenian tragedy. In my Cosmology and the Polis (2012) I further developed the relationship between monetisation and tragedy.

In this paper I pursue a theme touched on in these books: I suggest a new perspective on the development in ancient Greece of the concept of the inner self or psuchê as an immortal organ of comprehensive consciousness. There is no word for such a concept in the premonetary world of Homer, but for the thought of Plato it is central. This fundamental development did not occur in a social vacuum, and cannot be explained without attention to history. I will suggest, on the basis of texts from various authors from Homer to the fourth century BCE (and especially Herakleitos), that a crucial factor was the monetisation of the Greek polis in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Coined money was revolutionary not only as a universal means of exchange but also as extremely convenient – far more so than any other kind of wealth – for possession by the individual, whom it tended therefore to isolate, because it can in principle fulfill most or all of his needs.


quotable essay from ...
Geld! Welches Geld?
Karl-Heinz Brodbeck, Silja Graupe (Hg.):
Geld! Welches Geld?
the author
Prof. Dr. em. Richard Seaford
Richard Seaford

Professor Emeritus of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter in England.