Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lycurgus – The Spartan Monetary System and Wealth

Lycurgus began with a decree that all gold and silver coinage was outlawed and all Spartan coins must be made of iron. He made the coin units low value and heavy so they were difficult to store and transport. He had the hot iron doused with vinegar to make the metal weak and fragile.

This caused crime to disappear from Sparta, because who would steal, rob, or plunder something that could not be hidden, envied, or melted down into anything? All useless alien crafts disappeared because there was no sale for their products, since the iron money could not be used anywhere else in Greece.

As Plutarch puts it,

“It was now impossible to buy foreign goods and no cargo of merchandise would enter a Spartan harbor, no teacher of rhetoric trod Laconian soil, no begging seer, no pimp, no maker of gold and silver ornaments – because there was no coined money. Thus gradually cut off from the things that animate and feed it, luxury atrophied of its own accord.”

The wealthy had no outlet to show off their wealth and were resigned to keep it in storage.

Craftsman, now released from useless jobs, began to work in the manufacture of essential goods such as tables and chairs, so the competition among them was fierce and the resulting quality of these products first rate.


Anonymous said...

"Useless jobs"? So you find the arts completely without merit?

You sound like a communist.

Mike Anderson said...


Maybe "useless" was a bad choice of words. I meant useless in the sense of useless to the craftsman if he can't earn a living doing it.

Anonymous said...

Oh no I think he has you there!