The cost of building the Parthenon was 469 silver talents, or about £5.6m.
by Dominic Frisby, Gold Core:
– What wages in ancient Athens can tell us about the silver price today
– Wages paid in silver in ancient Athens compared to wages today
– Silver massively undervalued compared to the past few thousand years
Today we look at the wages paid to oarsmen on warships in ancient Athens in 450BC.
I bet you’ve never read a Money Morning that began like that before.
Why on earth would I want to do such a thing?
Because it tells us a great deal about the silver price today…
How wages in ancient Athens compare to today
In The Economy of Ancient Greece, historian Darel Engen describes how the Athenian unit of money – the talent (about 26kg of silver) – could purchase nine years of a skilled man’s labour. If we assume 250 working days in a year, that works out at about 11.5g of silver per day – a little under 0.3 of a troy ounce.
A kilo of silver today is about £460, so nine years’ skilled labour would amount to about £12,000 in today’s money. That makes a year’s skilled labour about £1,333, and a day’s £5.29.
Fast forward to today. The average wage in the UK construction industry, which I’ll use as an equivalent, is about £30,000 per annum, or £120 per day. It seems that today’s British labourer is earning considerably more than his ancient Athenian counterpart.
1 Ounce of Silver was Worth $1,218 in the Ancient Roman World
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