Attic talent

The Attic talent (a talent of the Attic standard), also known as the Athenian talent or Greek talent (Greek: τάλαντον, talanton), is an ancient unit of mass equal to about 26 kilograms (57 lb), as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver.[1] A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora, about one cubic foot (28 l).[2] At the 2017 price of $547/kg, a silver talent is worth $14,113.[3] It was equivalent to 60 minae, 6,000 drachmae or 36,000 oboloi.[1]

During the Peloponnesian War, a trireme crew of 200 rowers was paid a talent for a month's worth of work, one drachma, or 4.3 grams of silver per rower per day.[4] According to wage rates from 377 BC, a talent was the value of nine man-years of skilled work.[5] This corresponds to 2340 work days or 11.1 grams (0.36 ozt) of silver per worker per workday. In 2004, a modern carpenter's median wage was about $25,060 per year or $226,000 for nine years of work.[6]

In 1800, a building craftsman in urban Europe received an average wage of 11.9 grams (0.38 ozt) of silver a day,[7] or about $0.49 a day.[8] Adjusted for inflation, this corresponds to $6 a day in 2007 money.[9] Assuming a European worker in 1800 to be as productive as a worker in ancient Greece, the purchasing power of a talent in ancient times was about equal to $20,000 in the early 21st century.[10] The plausibility of this calculation is confirmed by the fact that a talent of silver was worth $1081 in 1800,[8] equivalent to $13,000 after adjusting for inflation.[9]

See also


  1. The exact mass of a talent was 25.992kg. Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The Histories (1998), p. 593.
  2. Talent (Biblical Hebrew), Unit of Measure,
  3. "Money Metals charts". Money Metals.
  4. Torr, Cecil. "Triremes", The Classical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1906), p. 137.
  5. Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
  6. See
  7. Calculated from Robert Allen's "Wages New", p. 36.
  8. Calculated from here Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Calculated from here Archived 2007-07-21 at WebCite.
  10. See also footnote one in "Life of Crassus", which calculates the value of a talent as $20,000 in 2004 money.
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