Some comments on David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years

May 25, 2012

There’s a lot to like about David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011) which is essentially a history of the relationship between money and morality from the dawn of civilization in Sumeria up to the present day. However, in a work that spans so many centuries, regions, and academic disciplines (anthropology, economics, history), some minor errors are bound to crop up. I offer the following comments on Graeber’s references to ancient history in the hopes that they might be fixed in a future edition:

Territories that had never been under Roman rule – in Ireland, Wales… [Graeber, page 61]

The Romans did conquer Wales.

Nehemiah… received permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar more than two centuries earlier… [Graeber, page 81]

This implies that the Temple had been in ruins for two hundred years but rebuilding began in the sixth century with help from the Persian king Cyrus [see the beginning of the book of Ezra]. Perhaps Graeber meant to refer to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls?

[Annikeris] A Libyan philosopher of the Epicurean school… [ransomed Plato] [Graeber, page 197].

Epicurus lived after Plato so this Annikeris cannot be an Epicurean philosopher.

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British Museum V: Parthenon friezes

May 23, 2012

East Frieze V, 34-35

Iris (West Pediment N)

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Quote of the Day: Gods, Money and Ships

April 27, 2010

In the fourth century as in the fifth, a city could not run a serious navy without taking a coldly instrumental attitude towards the assets of its gods.

– John K. Davies “Temples, Credit, and the Circulation of Money.” In A. Meadows and K. Shipton, eds., Money and its Uses in the Ancient Greek World (2001) 126.


Quote of the Day: Kyzikos

March 9, 2010

it has been said that Kyzikos was ‘the mint of Athens on the Propontis’ and indeed it is possible to find, among the almost inexhaustible variety of Kyzikene staters, plenty of signs of the Athenian connection. All the types still have the local emblem of the tunny fish as a subsidiary detail, and among the main designs many seem to be borrowed or suggested by those of other cities, sometimes quite remote… It is, nevertheless, most interesting to find types which are based purely on Athenian myth or history and which never occur elsewhere as coin types…

– G. K. Jenkins Ancient Greek Coins (1972) page 96.