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Coins & Philosophy


As everyone knows coins and the history of thought are the most interesting and important things apart from food and sex.

This book could be of interest to some of us:

How were the Greeks of the sixth century BC able to invent philosophy and tragedy? In this book Richard Seaford argues that a large part of the answer can be found in another momentous development, the invention and rapid spread of coinage which produced the first ever thoroughly monetised society. By transforming social relations, monetisation contributed to the ideas of the universe as an impersonal system (presocratic philosophy) and of the individual alienated from his own kin and from the gods (in tragedy). Seaford argues that an important precondition for this monetisation was the Greek practice of animal sacrifice, as represented in Homeric Epic, which describes a premonetary world on the point of producing money. This book combines social history, economic anthropology, numismatics and the close reading of literary, inscriptional, and philosophical texts. Questioning the origins and shaping force of Greek philosophy, this is a major book with wide appeal.

Has anyone read it?

Just got a copy yesterday and have started to read it. It's thorougly academic (which is fine by me, it just means the writing is fairly dense), but it's packed full of exceptionally interesting stuff, at least for someone interested in the early history of coinage. Chapters are:

Homeric transactions
Sacrifice and distribution
Greece and the ancient Near East
Greek money
The preconditions of coinage
The earliest coinage
The features of money
Did politics produce philosophy?
Anaximander and Xenophanes
The many and the one
Heraclitus and Parmenides
Pythagoreanism and Protagoras
Appendix: Was money used in the early Near East

My favorite place, Miletus, was "probably the very first thoroughly monetised society in history" (p. 15).


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