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ἄργυρος). Silver. The Athenians obtained their silver from the silver mines at Laurium, which were generally regarded as the chief source of the wealth of Athens. We learn from Xenophon that these mines had been worked in remote antiquity; and Xenophon speaks of them as if he considered them inexhaustible. In the time of Demosthenes, however, the profit arising from them had greatly diminished; and in the second century of the Christian era they were no longer worked. The ore from which the silver was obtained was called “silver earth” (ἀργυρῖτις γῆ, or simply ἀργυρῖτις). The same term (terra) was also applied to the ore by the Romans, who obtained most of their silver from Spain. See Caelatura; Metallum.

The relative value of gold and silver differed considerably at different periods in Greek and Roman history. Herodotus mentions it as 1 to 13; Plato as 1 to 12; Menander as 1 to 10; and Livy as 1 to 10, about B.C. 189. According to Suetonius, Iulius Caesar, on one occasion, exchanged gold for silver in the proportion of 1 to 9; but the most usual proportion under the early Roman emperors was about 1 to 12; and from Constantine to Justinian about 1 to 14, or 1 to 15.

For the use of silver in coinage, see the articles Nummus; Denarius; Drachma, and especially Numismatics.

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