How rich was ancient rich
Ancient historians have left us messages about the wealth of the most well-known bags of the ancient world. Is it possible to compare their state with the state of today’s rich?
Historian Artem Efimov, the leading telegram-channel “pieces of eight!”, I believe that you can, and offers to do this in the case of the richest personalities of Greece and Rome Alexander the great and Marcus Licinius Crassus.
Alexander The Great
Ancient historians tell of great riches, captured by Alexander the great (ruled 336-323 years BC) in Persia. Twice after the battle of Issus (333 BC) and Gaugamela (331 BC) — Macedonians captured the Persian camp Treasury. Once it was 3,000 talents of silver (one talent — 26.2 kg), the other 4000. That’s a total of 183,4 tons of silver.
From such quantity of silver was to be coined 10.5 million attic tetradrachms — the then main trade coins of the Greek Mediterranean. For comparison, voluntarily surrendered to the city of the Persian Empire Alexander had imposed a contribution of 50 talents (1.3 tons of silver). On the other hand, died beloved Alexander Hephaistion, on the stage of the funeral rites it has been spent 10 thousand talents.
But it’s nothing compared to the prey taken by Alexander in the Persian capitals: Susa — according to various sources, 45-50 thousand talents, Persepolis — 120-130 thousand in Ecbatana — 26 thousand.
Strabo leads a General evaluation of the extracted treasures 180 thousand talents — about 4700 tons of silver.
It is important to remember that this is money rating: extraction Alexander was not from the pile of silver ingots and coins. There was gold and jewelry, and precious brocade, and luxurious utensils, and weapons, etc., etc. a Significant part of these treasures Alexander gave away to soldiers: 500, 600, 800 drachmas distinguished after each victory, and all — after taking the next city. But that does not give away something the soldiers themselves plundered. Those companions of Alexander, who managed to return home, he returned rich.
These same 4700 tons of silver is 2,667 billion dollars at current prices.
It seems to be not so much: the state of bill gates, for example, is 85 billion dollars, Mark Zuckerberg — 56.7 billion. But IV century BC — an era of much lesser commercialization, the money then was much less widespread and is valued much higher.
You can try very approximately counted by purchasing power parity. The daily earnings of the employee in Athens in the IV century BC — 2 dram (8.6 grams of silver), a simple foot soldier in Alexander’s army — about 5 drachmas (21.5 grams of silver). On average, we assume 15 grams.
Production of Alexander the great — about 313 trillion daily earnings. In the US the officially established minimum wage — $ 7.25 per hour, that is, when the 8-hour working day, $ 58 per day. The same 313 trillion daily earnings for 58 dollars — it is terrible to say, from 18.2 trillion dollars.
Total production of Alexander the great is the analogue of the expenditure budget of the modern USA about five years (for example, in 2017 — 3,69 trillion dollars).
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Now fast-forward to Ancient Rome. Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53 years BC), the organizer of the uprising of Spartacus, and member of the First triumvirate together with Caesar and Pompey, was considered the richest man in Rome. He cheaply bought up the confiscated property of the people, outlawed, fires and the like, so that he owned a huge part of Rome. He also owned silver mines, vast agricultural lands and a great many slaves.
Here is what Plutarch (“Crassus”, 2): “[…] initially, Crassus had not more than three hundred talents, and when he became the head of the state, and dedicated to Hercules a tenth of his property, arranging a treat for the masses, giving every Roman from its funds for three months of food — when counting their wealth before the Parthian campaign found that their cost equals seven thousand one hundred talents.”
The Roman talent more Greek and corresponds to 32.3 kg of silver. That is, the state before Crassus ‘ Parthian campaign, in which he disappeared, was nearly 230 tons of silver.
The testimony of Pliny (“Natural history”, XXXIII, 134): “Marcus Crassus claimed that wealthy is the one who is on his annual income may contain Legion. In the land he had invested 200 million sesterces”.
Then the Legion is an average of about 3,500 people. From the time of Caesar, the annual salary of a legionary was 225 denarii a year, the earnings of the working day in Rome — the denarius a day. Denarius — the coin 3.9 grams of silver (equal to 10 Assam — walking small copper or bronze coins). Therefore, the contents of the Legion in the year cost at least 3 tons of silver, and that this should be the annual income to be considered a wealthy man in the late Republic.
Now about land ownership at 200 million sesterces, which, according to Pliny, had Crassus. Sesterces — a walking silver coin 2.5 ACCA (the name derives from semis tertius, literally “half past two”), or ¼ of a denarius, that is a little less than 1 gram of silver. Therefore, 200 million sesterces correspond roughly to 200 tons of silver. If we add to this Crassus movable property (slaves, for example), will get about the same 230 tons of silver, about which Plutarch wrote.
In approximate translation into modern money, by purchasing power parity (see above) slightly less than $ 3.5 billion.
In modern Russia Crassus had not even entered the top 20 list of “Forbes” (in the list for 2017 the twentieth place is taken by businessman Mikhail Gutseriev, whose fortune is estimated at $ 6.3 billion).