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Money and the Early Greek Mind: Homer, Philosophy, Tragedy Paperback – 11 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (11 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521539927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521539920
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'This book is of wider relevance than just to teachers and students of classics, for whom it affords an invaluable resource. It relates to all of us who, as Seaford says, 'live in a world in which the monetisation first observable in the Greek polis has had several centuries to develop …' The Lecturer

'This book is a tour de force … It is set to become a compulsory reading for all serious students and scholars of Greek thought.' The Journal of Classics Teaching

'… masterful … This intriguing, provocative book is essential reading for anyone curious about the dynamic forces which propelled Greek culture to its highest achievements in tragedy and philosophy.' The Heythrop Journal

'… this is a book that brims with ideas.' Journal of Hellenic Studies

'… a well thought through, carefully organised, well structured and competently balanced work. It promises a fascinating and stimulating read.' Ancient West and East

Book Description

How were the Greeks of the sixth century BC able to invent philosophy and tragedy? In this book Richard Seaford argues that the answer can be found in another momentous development, the invention and rapid spread of coinage, which produced the first ever thoroughly monetised society.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jonone100 on 6 Jun. 2012
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Seaford's language is difficult at times, in fact quite a lot of the time. He assumes his reader has a deep knowledge of Ancient Greek History - which I don't and was therefore often searching Wikipedia and the like to gain context. I also didn't like the structure of his book. And sometimes he said things that made me wonder if he's missed the point. There was a moment on page 112 when I was tempted to give up.

"As currency precious metal has advantages over iron. It is rarer and more valuable, and so can embody monetary value in pieces that are smaller and more easily concealable and portable than spits."

So you may wonder why I've given it a full 5 stars? Because at its best it's brilliantly insightful; one of the most important books on the origin of money of recent times.

But first my criticisms. I can live with the first two. Both just required a bit more effort on my part. Besides, I guess the book was originally written for a readership of Greek Scholars and has garnered broader attention by being cited in writing on the origins of money (in particular Graeber's Debt - the first 5000 years). Regarding the quote; I see this as circular reasoning - isn't he just saying that a silver coin is valuable because its silver and not iron? I read the book as someone interested in Money rather than ancient Greece or the development of Philosophy, so I might be overly sensitive to this sort of thing. I was left asking if Seaford wants us to believe in a commodity theory of money - the rarity of silver? - or to believe in a social relations theory of money - the sharing of sacrifice? I'll happily dismiss both, or consider a conflation of the two, but Seaford should tell me from where he thinks money came. He does tell us at length what he thinks money is.
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