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A Swift History of Money

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Gold, as far as the civilizations which had been born from the Neolithics are concerned, was not as much a tool for trade than a metal for the arts, of linked to the gods. Gold, then, became involved into trade but along with other metals or objects like a payment tool. First merchants however do not know coins as those appeared late, about 635 B.C., in the kingdom of Lydia, Asia Minor. The city of Sardes, its capital, is really lying along the shores of the Pactole river, which is moving the electrum, a natural alliage of gold and silver. The Pactole river is that famed river in the Antiquity which had allowed king Midas, king of the neighbouring kingdom of Phrygia, to get rid of the eventually annoying power of turning in gold all what his hands was touching! Lydian smiths had the knowledge of how to part gold and silver from the electrum as they further became the first ever in history to mint coins. Such a discovery is a fundemental feat in the history of the world. It quickly allowed for a increase of trade as coins were a payment tool comparatively easy to take with as the use of coins may be considered, from a point of view of a trader, related to the previous tools, as a facilitation equivalent than the change letter became at a later period. Coins, on the other hand, was to become too a medium, allowing for propaganda. A kingdom or a empire was glorifying istself through the figures or symbols engraved unto coins as the spread of those were showing its might. Kingdom of Lydia, under King Cresus eventually fell to Persians by the 6th century A.D.

Payment tools, mostly gold coins, began then to play their major role into Antiquity, the one of encouraging trade. It looks like a strong correlation exists between the use of money coins, the decline of middle-eastern empires and the apparition of European peoples in the history of the Neolithical basin of civilization between Tigris and Euphrates

In a civilizational system, each time that gold existed in sufficient amounts, trade was florissant. Each time, at the opposite, that gold -or the current payment tool- came to want, the considered civilization had its trade circuits came to a halt, and often bringing it to its decline. Payment tools could lack, for example, for cause of thesaurization or of exhaustion of mining. The most obvious example of that is the history of Rome. Since the 2nd century B.C., Rome had became a power based on personal wealth as 4 to 5 tons of gold were extracted from its Spanish mines during two hundred years. Each Roman citizen bearing such a thurst of gold, conjugated to the decline of the Roman mining output, was one of the main causes of the decline and fall of the Roman empire as people came to cut off gold from the coins they used, or the government manipulated the value of it. As that eventually equipolated to a disparition of the trade tools, the late Roman economy was gravely affected

Two facts are of note, as far as the Carolingian Times are concerned. On one hand, the golden trade payment tools are now remaining the feat of Byzantium and the Arab world only, during that era of a general weakening of the merchant routes during the Early Middle Ages. As the West is buying a lot of goods to the East and its pays for them with gold, it unluckily does not have anything to sell. This lead thus to the West passes to a gold-silver bimetallism and then to a silver monometallism. Such Western coins are not accepted in the East anymore. The Arab world further is a world of traders. With its golden dinar and advanced commerce pratices, it has turned into a gigantic trading empire of sort, that world of the caravans and ships which are journeying from Africa to India and the Far East. Byzantium, as far as it is concerned, had gotten a famed, gold money coin, whic is termed the 'solidus', a stable and recognized one. The solidus eventually became the 'moneta franca' of the Middle Ages. The other feat is that, under Charlemagne, king Offa of Mercia, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and reigning over the whole of southern England, had discovered rich silver mines on its territories. Albeit he could not took profit of those by himself, such mines were to remain the feeding resource of all the European silver metal, during 500 years

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 12/28/2010. contact us at
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