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Bankers were called by the Greeks trapezitoe, because they sat at tables in the market-places, the centre of all business transactions. They acted as money-changers, exchanging for a commission heavy money or gold into smaller coin, and the moneys of different systems with each other. In commercial cities they would do a considerable trade in this way; the difference of standards and the uncertainty of the stamping of coins in Greece creating a great demand for their assistance. They also acted as money-lenders, both on a small and a large scale. Finally, they received money on deposit. People placed their money with them partly for safe custody, partly to facilitate the management of it. The depositors, according to their convenience, either drew out sums of money themselves, or commissioned their banker to make payments to a third person. In this line the business of the banks was considerable. If a citizen had a large sum of money circulating in business, he probably preferred to put it in a bank, and to hand over to the banker the business of making his payments. Strangers too found that the banks offered them such facilities that they were glad to make considerable use of them. The bankers kept strict accounts of all the monies in their charge. If a person were making a payment to another who was a depositor at the same bank, the banker would simply transfer the requisite sum I from one account to the other. The bankers were generally well known from the public character of their occupation, and they naturally gained great experience in business. Consequently their advice and assistance were often asked for in the ordinary affairs of life. They would be called in to attest the conclusion of contracts, and would take charge of sums of money, the title to which was disputed, and of important documents. Business of this kind was generally in the hands of resident aliens. We hear, in isolated instances, of State-banks. But this business was carried on in the vast majority of cases by the great sanctuaries, such as those of Delphi, Delos, Ephesus, and Samos, which were much used as banks for loans and deposits, both by individuals and governments. The Romans had, in some exceptional cases, State-banks under the superintendence of public officials. The nummularii and argentarii occupied the same position among them as the trapezitoe among the Greeks. The tabernoe argentarioe, or banks, were set up in the forum, especially about or under the three arched buildings called Iani. The nummularii had a two-fold function. (1) They were officers of the mint, charged with assaying new coins, holding a bank (mensa) for putting new coins into circulation, taking old or foreign coinage into currency, and testing the genuineness of money on occasion of payments being made. (2) They carried on the business of exchange on their own account, at the same time acting as argentarii. In other words, they received money on deposit, put out capital at interest for their clients, got in outstanding debts, made payments, executed sales, especially auctions of property left to be disposed of by will, lent money or negotiated loans, and executed payments in foreign places by reference to bankers there. The argentarii and nummularii were alike subject to the superintendence of the state authorities. In Rome they were responsible to the Proefectus Urbi, in the provinces to the governors. They were legally bound to keep their books with strict accuracy. The books were of three kinds: (a) the codex accepti et expensi, or cash book, in which receipts and payments were entered, with the date, the person's name, and the occasion of the transaction; (b) the liber rationum, in which every client had a special page setting out his debit and credit account; and (c) the adversaria, or diary for the entry of business still in hand. In cases of dispute these books had to be produced for purposes of legal proof. The Roman bankers, like the Greek, usually managed payments from one client to another by alteration of the respective accounts.
Type: Standard
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