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As rich as who, now?

One of my favorite radio programs at the moment is BBC4’s A History of the World in 100 Objects. It’s two years old, but the BBC is good about archiving their programs for download (only, probably not by you. I don’t know if they filter by regional IP like the TV side does…but, hey, you can look at the pitchers).

Anyhow, it’s a hundred fifteen minute programs featuring significant objects from the British Museum arranged in chronological order. Just the sort of tasty, bite-sized chunks o’ learnin’ I love most. The presenter (and director of the museum) is a lefty tool with an irritatingly patrician delivery, but you live in BBC-land, you develop strong ear filters for that sort of thing.

The last one I listened to featured the thing in the picture, a coin minted by Croesus. Yes, that Croesus. And was he really all that rich? Son, HE INVENTED MONEY.

Kind of. The Chinese had coins already (of course) and merchants all over had been trading in lumps of metal and other precious items for ages. But Croesus’ innovation was to purify the metal to a consistent standard, mint objects of a consistent size and pattern and put a government imprimatur on them. So instead of trading one-to-one in essentially raw materials, you could trade your goods and services for…MONIES!!!!!!

That was the largest coin, by the way. As they came down in size, they featured smaller and smaller pieces of the same scene, until the smallest one (about the size of a grain of rice, he said) was just the lion’s paw.

Did he get rich from his idea? Oh, yes he did!

Came to a sticky end, though. He’s the one who was menaced by the Persians and asked the Oracle of Delphi whether he should go on the offensive. The answer was “If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire.” He attacked, and the great empire destroyed was his own.

The Oracle was such a beyatch.

sock it to me

August 16, 2012 — 10:29 pm
Comments: 24