This paper is an endeavour to discover (1) the origin, (2) the value, and (3) the affinity of the Talent of the Homeric Poems to other systems. In those Poems we find two systems of denominating value, the one by the ox (or cow), or the value of an ox, the other by the talent (τάλαντον). The former is the one which has prevailed and does still prevail in barbaric communities, such as the Zulus, where the sole or principal wealth consists in herds and flocks. For several reasons we may assign to it priority in age as compared with the talent. For as it represents the most primitive form of exchange, the barter of one article of value for another, before the employment of the precious metals as a medium of exchange, consequently the estimation of values by the ox is older than that by a talent or ‘weight’ of gold, or silver, or copper. Again in Homer all values are expressed in so many beeves, e.g.
(Il. vi. 236.)
The talent on the other hand is only mentioned in relation to gold; for we never find any mention of a talent of silver. But the names of monetary units hold their ground long after they themselves have ceased to be in actual use, as we observe in such common expressions as ‘bet a guinea,’ or ‘worth a crown,’ although these coins themselves are no longer in circulation.
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