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Form: Gr. tokoi; Lat. fenus or usura.
In Greece the rate oi interest on invested capital was not restricted by law, but was left entirely to arrangement between the parties concerned. The average rate, compared with that usually given at the present day, was very high, far higher than the rent either of houses or land. This is partly explained by the proportionately greater scarcity of ready money, and by the fact that it was difficult to accumulate a large amount of capital. In the time of Demosthenes 12 per cent. was regarded as a rather low rate of interest, and higher rates, up to 18 percent., were quite common. In bottomry the ordinary rate of interest at Athens was 20 per cent. In the event of failure in the payment of interest due, compound interest was charged. In the computation of interest two different methods were employed. It was usual to specify either the sum to be paid by the month on every mina (equal in intrinsic value of silver to £3 6s. 8d.), or the fraction of the principal which was annually paid as interest. Capital therefore was said to be invested at, a drachma, if for every mina (100 drachmoe) there was paid interest at the rate of one drachma, i.e. one per cent. monthly, and consequently 12 per cent. per annum. Or again, if 12 1/2 per cent. yearly interest was to be paid , the capital was said to be invested at "one-eighth." In most cases the interest appears to have been paid monthly, and on the last day of the month; but payment by the year was not unknown. In bottomry the interest was according to the terms of the contract. In Rome, as at Athens, the rate of interest was originally unrestricted, and it was not until after hard struggles that, by the laws of the Twelve Tables, a regular yearly rate of interest at one-twelfth of the capital, or 8 1/3 per cent., was established. But this and subsequent legal limitations were all the less effectual for putting down usury, because they were valid in the case of Roman citizens only, and not in that of foreigners. Usury was accordingly practised under the name of foreigners up to the end of the 2nd century B.C., when the laws against it were extended so as to include aliens. Through intercourse with Asia and Greece, a change in the payment of interest was gradually introduced, which in the first half of the 1st century B.C. Was generally adopted. Capital was no longer lent by the year, but by the month, and monthly interest was paid, on the first day of each month; notice of intention to call in the loan was given on the Ides (the 13th or 15th day of the month), and reimbursement took place on the first day of the following month. The regular rate of interest with this reckoning was 1 per cent. monthly, or 12 per cent. per annum. The accumulation of large fortunes in Rome at the end of the Republic considerably lessened the rate of interest on safe investmepts. The chief field for usury was then the provinces, whose inhabitants were compelled by the exorbitant imposts to be continually raising loans at any price. The custom, long permitted, of adding the year's unpaid interest to the principal, was first forbidden by the later Roman law. Justinian permanently fixed the rate of interest in ordinary investments at 6 per cent., in commercial enterprises at 8 per cent., and in bottomry, in which it had previously been unlimited on account of the risk incurred by the stock on long voyages, at 12 per cent.
Type: Standard
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