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credit of a wealthy citizen. If he desired, the Greek or Roman investor could get three to ten times these normal rates by taking the bottomry risk. Finally, we have excellent evidence of great stability in these normal interest rates over known long periods of time. This stability was due no doubt in part to tradition. Even today tradition plays an important role in determining interest rates on loans far removed from a money market. These ancient normal loans, if they are to be compared at all with modern loans, were probably most like modern personal loans made by small banks or by individuals. The rate ten years ago in New England might have been 6%, as it was one hundred years earlier. Western rates would have been higher but would rarely have been influenced by fluctuations in the Eastern money market. If indeed this analogy is even partly correct, the sluggishness of ancient rates is understandable, and the data from century to century, especially during the Greek and a portion of the Roman period, are meaningful. A few of the differences between the credit structure of antiquity and that of the present day should be noted here before ancient rates are analyzed in detail. There were few loans floated in volume by states. States were not in high credit standing. They were not often able to pledge the private resources of their people. They had not learned the principles of deficit financing. There were no large private corporate debtors. There was no bourse market to permit creditors to liquidate loans in advance of maturity; this device had to await the Italian financiers of the Middle Ages. There were no large banking organizations able to supplement the metallic currency with a large volume of credit instruments, able to create deposit money in volume, and able to act as convenient intermediaries between debtor and creditors. As a consequence there could be no large organized money market capable of reflecting quickly the supply and demand for credit and of mobilizing large credit resources. The risk factor in ancient loans is probably overstressed in explaining high normal interest rates. The implication is that there were no safe loans in antiquity. But the margin of security was often very large, the term was short, and the sanctions for default were very severe: personal slavery in Babylonia and Rome. Risk loans certainly were common, and their rates were many times the concurrent normal rates. In Greece, at least, anyone could speculate if he desired. Furthermore, in modern times there is an enormous range of certain prime rates, and when such rates are high, this cannot be explained in terms of an increase in risk. American Telephone 8.80s seemed just as safe when they were issued in 1974 as American Telephone 25 8s were twenty-eight years earlier. No doubt the legal status of Greek and Roman creditors improved as time passed and this facilitated credit. But the sanctions of creditors seemed in some respects better under the Code of Hammurabi than they do today.
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Instead of overemphasizing risk, another basic difference from today should be emphasized the relative inconvenience of lending or investing money in ancient times. A lack of institutional intermediaries would today bring our credit structure to a standstill. The mechanics of lending as individuals to other individuals on pawns or real estate or general credit is complex, burdensome, and potentially unpleasant, however giltedged the collateral. This difference of convenience alone may outweigh the factor of risk in explaining the tendency of ancients to hoard metal and invest in land. Keeping always in mind these differences of ancient credit from modern credit, as well as the fact that nevertheless in ancient times the use of credit was widespread, the data on ancient interest rates can now be reviewed to see to what extent it may yield generalities and comparisons. Table 4 summarizes those rates from Tables 1, 2, and 3 which purport to represent either rates on good credits or legal limits. They are stated in terms of centuries (except for the earliest period) and as ranges wherever available. Spot rates, usurious rates, risk rates, and eccentric rates are omitted. The data are subdivided geographically and by types of loan wherever that is definable. No attempt is made to distinguish the term of the loans because the data rarely specify term, and the legal limits never do. With a few exceptions most normal loans were for a year or a fraction thereof; occasionally, 2 5 years. Long-term loans existed at these rates, but were often renewals of shorter loans. Loans in kind are omitted from the table. Table 4 gives the impression that most Babylonian rates were higher than most Greek rates, and most Greek rates were higher than most Roman rates. Roman rates were usually also lower than the rates in Roman provinces. Almost nothing can be inferred concerning the stability of Babylonian rates or concerning their century-by-century trends. The very wide range quoted for most of this vast Babylonian epoch 10 25% could imply great volatility over a period of time, but could also imply a variety of types of loans. Greek rates seem the most stable over a long time, while Roman rates became very volatile from 100 B.C. to A.D. 200. Perhaps something like a true money market had developed in Rome by that time, but if so it was largely under the counter. There was a good measure of continuity in the development of credit forms over this entire ancient era, even though the center of civilization shifted at least twice and the customs and traditions of the peoples were very different. The Greeks adopted certain Babylonian weights and measures. It is likely that the elaborate but small-scale banking methods of Babylonia were also imitated by the Greeks; in any event the Greeks used similar forms. These credit forms were exploited by the Greeks in an atmosphere of freedom and laissez faire very different from that of Babylonia. Finally, Roman bankers were largely Greeks who must have brought
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