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Money Lending in Hellenistic Lycia: The Union of Copper Money
Orhan KÖSE* - Recai TEKOĞLU**
The inscription forming the scope of this article is in the private collection of Mr. Oğuz Kocagil with inventory number 285 as registered by the Fethiye Archaeological Museum. The inscription is about half of its original size and does not contain any region or place names. Although its provenance is not known it may belong to Lycia. Even though the inscription has lost its important role in the relevant city’s historiography, it furnishes precious and enlightening information concerning the socio-economic structure of the region in the Hellenistic age.

Despite the lack of direct evidence for dating this inscription, its contents and palaeographic features suggest the Hellenistic period and a date in the second half of the 2nd century B.C. or later. The inscription is translated as follows:

Side A: to/by/in Union] of Copper Money. If any income bears interest they will add it to the principal. They will deposit both the hind portion over the lamb and the fore portion over the lamb belonging to his wife Mamma as the main share in the name of Symmasis while Symmasis is alive. When Symmasis is dead they will give both portions to his wife Mamma. When Mamma is dead they will give to my sons and to their descendants always equally. My sons, Symmakhos, Hermaphilos and Kleinos, and my sons-in-law Ermaktybelis and Ermolykos, sons of Tinzasis, the Bellerophonteioi, and their descendants will participate in the feastings. The 10 persons are prôtoiprôtoi when the number is completed. If someone from these persons is dead, the oldest one takes the place of the deceased. I any dispute occurs, the Union of Copper Money will arrive at a decision in the temple of Letoo who will participate and besides let them decide in the executive committee not to receive anybody more than 10 related persons. As the regulation, i.e. this is the money which Symmasis deposited as credit, is exact in the written paragraphs administrators (kheiristai) will lend at interest the money which Symmasis gave. If the Union of the Copper Money or anybody else does not act according to the written [paragraphs] those who acted contrary will pay 1000 drakhmi for every offence to the priests of Helios and let the right be to ask the half of the payment to the descendants of Symmasis and to anyone who wishes. If the ceremonies of feasting and sacrifice cannot be celebrated because of any war or any political obstacle they will be carried out after the obstacle was disappeared.

Side B: (The Union of Copper Money) decided to increase interest and by voters to always and every year the management to Hermolykos, son of Kregdeis, the Iobateios, Inondis, son of Hermokles, the Sarpedonios, Kleinos, son of Symmasis, and Symmasis, son of Sortias, the Arailiseus. The participants made a contract in order not to spend whole money and to keep the principal always in safety in every time to which the yearly income of interest will be added. By spending always a sum of money from the income of interest they will sacrifice in order to sanctify Symmasis and his wife Mamma on the 25th day of the month Loios every year and Helios once every three years and on that day the feastings will be celebrated giving the name of Symmasis and Mamma to the day. My sons, Symmakhos, Hermaphilos and Kleinos, and my sons-in-law Ermaktybelis and Ermolykos, sons of Tinzasis, the Bellerophonteioi, will always participate in the feastings. Every year, the elected archons of the Union of Copper Money will sacrifice sheep and goat as vows over the altar built by Symmasis in the heroon of Symmasis and Mamma and celebrate feastings and on that day administrators (kheiristai) and other close relative archons whose names were mentioned above will give the hind portion over lamb in addition to the above share to Symmasis, son of Sortias, if he is alive. When he is dead, they will transfer it to my sons. If these are also dead they will give it to the descendants from that generation and they will always take place in sacrifices and feastings.

Side C: let them realize religious duties with the money given by Symmasis in other 30 days. None can steal and keep it or use it for different purposes. If someone steals (and) keeps it or uses it for different purposes, he will be sinful to Helios and the other gods and let the sinners pay back double the amount that they stole and let the right be to ask the half to anyone who wishes. None is permitted to bury a dead person in the tomb of which the cover is a mono stone. If anyone does, let the person who buried a dead person be fined 100 drakhmi to the koinon mentioned above. Whatever those being administrators on that day propose to do let the masters be guarantors. The Union of Copper Money admitted all the matters written above and approved all after they were decided. Idlaimis, son of Midas, Attinas and Epigonos, sons of Ermadeiros, the Bellerophonteioi, amongst the archons are witnesses to this.

The inscription mainly includes the paragraphs of an agreement between a koinon that can be described as the “Union of Copper Money” and a person named Symmasis who was also a founder as one of the main shareholders. The agreement focuses on two main points: one is to lend money at interest and the other is the phenomenon of socialisation. Money lending at interest is a basic and main function of banking activities. The persons establishing such an institution are members of the leading aristocracy of the region. They foresaw making money from the cash money in their hands, that is, they conducted usury. However, the aim of Symmasis in joining such an establishment as a founder may also be explained in a different way. He incorporated his family members and other relatives into various social activities by spending some of the income from the interest. In other words, he allowed his family to join social activities by financing it. This is what is meant with the phenomenon of socialisation. If there were no such income, the feastings could not be arranged, sacrificed could not be offered, or he would have to cover these expenses from his own pocket in decreasing amounts each time. This trend emerged as a result of economic developments in the Hellenistic period and social and religious activities accompanied economic welfare.

Both the financing activities and the phenomenon of socialisation are not topics that developed within the region’s own socio-cultural and economic circumstances. Various Hellenic centres of this period, above all Athens, Rhodes and Delos, established various associations with similar themes. Thus, these are features present in Hellenic culture and they emerged in Anatolia and Lycia as a result of relations with those centres. In Rhodes of this period, there were about 120 such associations. Some had foreign participants or founders of Anatolian origin. Thus, it is possible to speak of relations between Lycia and Rhodes culminating in the evidence at hand.

Indeed, such elements of interaction need to be discovered and identified in order to pave the way for a better understanding of the developmental process of western Anatolia, which is identified with its own local cultures especially during the Classical period. We will be content to say from the evidence this inscription provides, Lycian citizens came under the influence of economic and social structures in Hellenic forms during the Hellenistic period.

*Orhan Köse
Fethiye Müzesi, Fethiye, Muğla

**Doç. Dr. Recai Tekeoğlu
Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Fen - Edebiyat Fakültesi, Eskiçağ Dilleri ve Kültürleri Bölümü, Kampüs 07058 Antalya.
E-mail: rtekoglu@akdeniz.edu.tr

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