076069 - R OGE R S . B AGNAL L F OURT H -C E NT URY P RI CE...

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R OGER S. B AGNALL F OURTH -C ENTURY P RICES : N EW E VIDENCE AND F URTHER T HOUGHTS aus: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 76 (1989) 69 –76 © Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn
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69 Fourth-Century Prices: New Evidence and Further Thoughts Since the publication of Currency and Inflation in Fourth Century Egypt ( BASP Suppl. 5, Atlanta 1985), new editions of papyri have added to the information available for the course of prices in Egypt in the fourth century. In addition, recent studies have added to our information about the metallic content of the coins in use during the period. None of the new information, it seems fair to say, alters in any radical way the picture that I presented several years ago; but in a number of ways it is now possible to be more precise about certain aspects of the monetary evolu- tion in the century. Some of the editors' restorations, datings and commentary, moreover, appear to me open to improvement. What follows is a series of eight comments on different aspects of the question. 1 1. Gold, Silver, and Wheat in the Edict of Maximum Prices One of the major fixed points for monetary history of the early fourth century has been the appearance of prices for gold (28.1a: 48 Talents/lb. 2 ), silver (28.9: 4 T./lb.), and (among numerous other types of goods) wheat (1.1a: 100 denarii/modius = 1,333 dr./art. 3 ) in Diocletian's Edict of Maximum Prices. 4 It is striking that the relationship of the pound of gold to the artaba of wheat is only about 1:216 in the Edict, or 10 modii/3 artabas per 4 grams of gold (the weight of the later Constantinian solidus). This is an extremely low figure; 1:576 is the fourth-century average, and 1:720 is common in later centuries. Naturally enough, this fact has led to some expressions of doubt the that market price of wheat really reached the level in the Edict. 5 New evidence allows a different approach. In CPR VI 75, published in 1985, there is a value of 640 dr. per artaba assigned to wheat. 6 The date is in Mecheir of 301, thus 26 January to 24 February. Now this document antedates the Currency Edict which took effect on 1 September 301, when existing coinage was doubled in value. 7 It seems, as one would expect, that when a coin heretofore worth 12.5 den. was stated to be worth 25 den. the prices of goods doubled to take account of the move. If we double the price in CPR VI 75, it comes to 1280 dr./art., ¨¨ or just slightly 1 These remarks arise from the coincidence of the publication of P. Oxy. LIV with my preparations for an international conference on inflation in the fourth century, which was held at the Istituto Italiano di Numismatica (Rome), 23-25 June 1988. I am grateful to Sara Sorda and Elio Lo Cascio for the invitation to this conference and to the participants for many stimulating observations. 2
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076069 - R OGE R S . B AGNAL L F OURT H -C E NT URY P RI CE...

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