Attic talent

The Attic talent (a talent of the Attic standard), also known as the Athenian talent or Greek talent (Greek: τάλαντον, talanton), is an ancient unit of mass equal to about 26 kilograms (57 lb), as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver.[1] A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora, about one cubic foot (28 l).[2] At the 2017 price of $547/kg, a silver talent is worth $14,113.[3] It was equivalent to 60 minae, 6,000 drachmae or 36,000 oboloi.[1]

An Athenian silver drachma, 454-404 BC, weighing 4.3 grams. A talent was equal to 6,000 drachmae, the equivalent of 25.80 kilograms of silver.

During the Peloponnesian War, a trireme crew of 200 rowers was paid a talent for a month's worth of work, one drachma, or 4.3 grams of silver per rower per day.[4] According to wage rates from 377 BC, a talent was the value of nine man-years of skilled work.[5] This corresponds to 2340 work days or 11.1 grams (0.36 ozt) of silver per worker per workday. In 2004, a modern carpenter's median wage was about $25,060 per year or $226,000 for nine years of work.[6]

In 1800, a building craftsman in urban Europe received an average wage of 11.9 grams (0.38 ozt) of silver a day,[7] or about $0.49 a day.[8] Adjusted for inflation, this corresponds to $6 a day in 2007 money.[9] Assuming a European worker in 1800 to be as productive as a worker in ancient Greece, the purchasing power of a talent in ancient times was about equal to $20,000 in the early 21st century.[10] The plausibility of this calculation is confirmed by the fact that a talent of silver was worth $1081 in 1800,[8] equivalent to $13,000 after adjusting for inflation.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b The exact mass of a talent was 25.992kg. Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The Histories (1998), p. 593.
  2. ^ Talent (Biblical Hebrew), Unit of Measure,
  3. ^ "Money Metals charts". Money Metals.
  4. ^ Torr, Cecil. "Triremes", The Classical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1906), p. 137.
  5. ^ Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
  6. ^ See
  7. ^ Calculated from Robert Allen's "Wages New[permanent dead link]", p. 36.
  8. ^ a b Calculated from here Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b Calculated from here Archived 2007-07-21 at WebCite.
  10. ^ See also footnote one in "Life of Crassus", which calculates the value of a talent as $20,000 in 2004 money.