Paul was wealthy

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
robert j
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by robert j » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:33 am

And by "corn" they were referring to wheat, or perhaps barley, as "maize" was of New World origin.

robert j.
Last edited by robert j on Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Bernard Muller
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by Bernard Muller » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:37 am

Hi Jay,
I made a rough estimate:
In 301 AD, 100 denarii for a modius castrensis of wheat (about 9 kg)= 11 denarii per kg (Ref: Diocletian's edict).
Today price, with (huge) mark up (I guess as bought by bakeries): about $0.8 per kg for wheat (Ref: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/loa ... 12479.html
So 11 denarii = $0.8, then 25 denarii = $2, and 1 denarius = 0.08 cents NOT 2 dollars
Ridiculously low!
Apparently, some people in India were being paid last year $0.28 an hour => $2.8 for a 10 hours day work.
Ref: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-look-a ... rld-2013-8

Cordially, Bernard
I believe freedom of expression should not be curtailed

PhilosopherJay
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by PhilosopherJay » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:38 pm

Hi Steve43,

Good point. I just checked and the cost of a bushel of corn is $4.61 today, Feb. 26, 2012.
We can take that as a bit more more than 1/2 hour of work for an unskilled worker today. If it took a Roman soldier (and they were actually paid as skilled labor) 4 days to earn a bushel, we are talking about a differential of about 100 times.

Today, a plane flight costs about $300 to fly roundtrip between Corinth, Greece and Ephesus, Turkey. If we assume the same differential of 100 times more expensive for corn, we get a trip costing $30,000. That is $30,000 for Paul's first trip, $90,000 for Paul to send Timothy and two brothers, and another $30,000 for Paul's second trip for a total of $150,000. This does not include the other 10 long trips he mentions in 1 Corinthians that he or other Christians made. They are of equal or longer distances.

Incidentally, besides the 14 or so trips mentioned in 1 Corinthians, there are seven trips to Corinth mentioned in

1. Paul's second trip to Corinth (2. Cor. 13.1 - 1 "This will be my third visit to you.")
2. Paul's third trip to Corinth. (2. Cor. 13.1)
3. Titus' trip to Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:13)
4. Titus' second upcoming trip to Corinth (2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:17)
5. A brother that accompanies Titus (2 Cor. 8:18
6. Another brother that accompanies Titus (2 Cor. 8:22)
7. The messenger who delivered this Epistle to Corinth

Paul appears to be writing from Macedonia, but it is hard to be sure.

Warmly,

Jay Raskin


steve43 wrote:Here is an excerpt from Hagan's "Fires of Rome" regarding the sesterce (four denarii) that might be enlightening.

"How is the value of the Roman sesterce determined in modern terms? One benchmark with which to roughly assign value to the sesterce is that in the first half of the first century A.D., the pay for Roman soldiers was nine hundred sesterces per annum, with
deductions for food. Tacitus is also helpful in this regard when he wrote about the Rome fires of A.D. 64.

'Supplies of food were brought up from Ostia and the neighbouring towns, and the price of corn was reduced to three sesterces a peck (Annuls 15:39)'

With this solid number, some observations can be made. First, it is assumed that three sesterces a peck was a bargain price for corn. In normal times, the price was probably twice that. With four pecks making up a bushel, the usual price of corn in Rome would have been twenty-four sesterces a bushel. The Roman soldier was paid under three sesterces per day. Even if twelve sesterces per bushel was the normal price of corn, it would take four days of brute labor to buy a single bushel of corn. This gives us an idea of the value of a first century A.D. sesterce, but also suggests that food in modern times is extraordinarily cheap when compared to ancient times!"

Bernard Muller
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by Bernard Muller » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:55 pm

Hi Jay,
A peck was not a measure of volume or weight during the Roman empire. Furthermore the Latin text only says the price of grain was reduced to three coins. No indication what these three coins were or what volume or weight of grain they would buy.
"subvectaque utensilia ab Ostia et propinquis municipiis pretiumque frumenti minutum usque ad ternos nummos."

According to my earlier research as shown on this thread:
One modius (6.67 kg) of wheat in 79 AD Pompeii cost 7 Sestertii [1.75 dinarii]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sestertius
During the early Empire a modius would sell for two Dinarii in Rome
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/worth.html
It looks Tacitus was thinking about sestertii and modius.

The Roman foot soldier in the time of Nero was paid 225 denarii a year, that's 0.62 denarii a day
(ref: http://www.roman-empire.net/army/army.html)

Cordially, Bernard
I believe freedom of expression should not be curtailed

PhilosopherJay
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by PhilosopherJay » Thu Feb 27, 2014 5:44 pm

Hi Bernard,

Thanks for this.

A peck of wheat (6.67 Kg.) took 3 days of work to buy. A bushel of wheat is 14.5 kilograms. A bit more than twice a peck.
I had assumed that a soldier had to work for 4 days to buy a bushel. This means he actually had to work for slightly over 6 days (to buy 2 pecks/1 bushel). That means that the cost of wheat was not 100 times greater than it is today, but 150 times greater. If this was true of all costs then Paul's trip from Ephesus to Corinth would have cost $45,000 and not the $30,000 I suggested in the last post. That means that the 10 or more trips where he went on to Corinth and sent Timothy, Titus and others on would have cost around 1/2 million.
This is not bad for a tent maker who would have been making about a dinari per day. I had originally pegged a dinari at $50 a day, but as you rightly pointed out it may have been under a dollar per day. To pay for all these trips Paul, if he was a poor tent-maker as claimed, he would only have had to work for 500,000 days, a mere 1,370 years. Of course, his other trips would have kept him working many more years.

Warmly,

Jay Raskin

Bernard Muller wrote:Hi Jay,
A peck was not a measure of volume or weight during the Roman empire. Furthermore the Latin text only says the price of grain was reduced to three coins. No indication what these three coins were or what volume or weight of grain they would buy.
"subvectaque utensilia ab Ostia et propinquis municipiis pretiumque frumenti minutum usque ad ternos nummos."

According to my earlier research as shown on this thread:
One modius (6.67 kg) of wheat in 79 AD Pompeii cost 7 Sestertii [1.75 dinarii]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sestertius
During the early Empire a modius would sell for two Dinarii in Rome
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/worth.html
It looks Tacitus was thinking about sestertii and modius.

The Roman foot soldier in the time of Nero was paid 225 denarii a year, that's 0.62 denarii a day
(ref: http://www.roman-empire.net/army/army.html)

Cordially, Bernard

Bernard Muller
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by Bernard Muller » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:31 pm

Paul's trip from Ephesus to Corinth would have cost $45,000
Whoa! And in boat so crowded with very wealthy people there was standing room only :lol: :banghead: :consternation:
Cordially, Bernard
I believe freedom of expression should not be curtailed

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DCHindley
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by DCHindley » Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:51 am

In attempts to illustrate the inflation in prices that occurred in the 3rd century CE, everyone is busy making assertions about a denarius being able to buy so many pounds, quarts, pecks or bushels of wheat, but these equations are all very loose, not always being clear whether these are supposed to be Roman, Greek or modern measures, or citing their sources for the equations.

What I am finding is that these loose or imprecise equations occur even in academic articles, often making sweeping generalizations based on isolated regional data. The problem is that there are only a handful of ancient sources citing commodity prices, spread out over the wide geographical area controlled by the Roman empire, rarely citing the standard of the coin being referenced.

The denarius, for instance, had several standards in Rome (silver and bronze) and there were apparently several grades of drachmas about, depending on whether they were silver or bronze based reckonings, and apparently also taking into account that several issues of any one coin were in general circulation, with differing levels of debasement.

It seems that ancient accountants were aware of these differences and the coins were counted by type by reducing them to their lowest common denominator (for drachmas, obols, usually). The variety of coins and the techniques to distinguish their relative value boggle the mind.

Anyhow, some may remember a shareware program that was circulating about in the 1990s called "Denarius Converter" by Stefan Kloppenborg (I think he may be the son of John Kloppenborg of Q fame). His program gives the following conversion for money and linear, area, dry and liquid measures:

1 denarius

=16.000000 assarion
=0.040000 aureus
=48.000077 chalkos
=1.000000 denarius
=1.000000 drachma (silver)
=100.000000 dr. (cu) (V BCE)
=60.002400 dr. (cu) (IV-220 BCE)
=120.004800 dr. (cu) (220-149 BCE)
=112.007168 dr. (cu) (149-89 BCE)
=56.000448 dr. (cu) (89-III CE)
=12.000048 dupondion
=127.991809 lepton
=0.010000 mina
=0.009615 mnaieion
=6.000024 obol
=64.000000 quadrans
=4.000000 sesterce
=0.250000 shekel
=0.250000 stater
=0.000167 talent
=0.250000 tetradrachma

1 artaba(-ae)

=1.000000 artaba(-ae)
=1.114000 bushel(s)
=29.000007 choinix(-kes) (min)
=40.000000 choinix(-kes) (max)
=30.272758 kgs. (wheat)
=0.100000 kor(s)
=64.842433 lbs. (wheat)
=38.780734 litre(s)
=0.387807 hectolitre(s)
=71.937271 log(s)
=0.749165 medimnus(-i)
=4.495008 modius(-ii)
=17.980114 qab(s)
=0.302727 quintal (wheat)
=2.954672 se'ah

1 iugerum(-a)

=1.000000 aroura(e)
=0.010000 pecheis(2)
=1.000000 schoinion(2)
=1.000000 iugerum(-a)
=0.275600 hectare(s)
=0.681008 acre(s)
=27.560000 are(s)
=2756.000004 metres(2)
=2.756000 dunam(s)
=0.118596 cors-space
=2.000000 plethron (min)
=1.000000 plethron (max)

I once asked him via e-mail where he got these equations, and he simply said "from common sources" (which I took to mean he didn't remember anymore and had not bothered to document them). In some cases he is very precise and in others he is very general, probably representing the sources he used. When there were regional differences (either in actual measurement or using Greek terms with their own specific meanings for Roman measures of different value), he indicates "min" "avg" and "max" values, often generally stated.

However, he also offers the following conversion for buying power of the Roman currency, presumably through the 2nd century:

1.000000 denarius

=0.500000 Wheat(Modius)
=0.166667 Ginger (lb)
=0.250000 Pepper (lb) low quality
=0.066667 Pepper (lb) high quality
=0.100000 Cinnamon (lb)
=0.333333 Incense (lb) min
=0.166667 Incense (lb) max
=0.250000 Tunic
=0.083333 Outer Garment (min)
=0.050000 Outer Garment (max)
=0.007692 Mule
=0.004000 Iugerum of Land
=0.001667 Slave (min)
=0.000040 Slave (max)
=0.000040 Burial of the Rich
=0.000040 Erecting a Statue
=0.000020 Holding Games
=0.000020 Ship of 400 Tons (min)
=0.000013 Ship of 400 Tons (max)
=0.000002 Financing a Public Building
=16.000000 Loaf of Bread
=16.000000 Wine (Litre)
=8.000000 Meat at an Inn
=16.000000 Simple Dish (min)
=8.000000 Simple Dish (max)
=8.000000 Hay for a mule
=2.000000 Prostitute

I have identified some of the sources he may have used for these money to value equations, which I am in the process of organizing and will present later.

Unfortunately, Stefan has gone on to pursue other things that do not relate to ancient history, and I cannot find a copy of his program available online. I thought I had a copy of the self-extracting zip file that installs and sets up the program, but cannot find it on my current hard drive. I might be able to find it on one of several old disembodied HDDs in my desk drawers.

DCH
Last edited by DCHindley on Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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DCHindley
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by DCHindley » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:00 am

While trying to document my idea that the buying power of a silver coin was relative to the silver content of the denarius at any one time, I ran into the problem that many surviving price equations are stated in drachmas.

However, I cannot find anything relating to the debasement of the silver content of the eastern drachma that corresponds to the detail available for the western denarius. What happens in Egypt may have little relation to what happens in Rome, Athens, Antioch, Gaul or Hispania, and I do not want to rely on the "official" Roman mandated conversion rates.

Can anyone cite a source for this such as a journal article? Ideally, it should provide the silver content of oriental style coins by percentage of total weight, not the raw grains, grams or "purity" of the silver they contain.

DCH

beowulf
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by beowulf » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:49 am

It is difficult to understand why anyone could think that information on the price of commodities in the Roman Empire during the third century AD will provide any useful information on the cost of travel in the first century: using the inflationary period of the Weimar Republic to acquire information about the Germany of Bismarck comes to mind.


This book is an excellent survey of the period with 36 meaty references for those with a healthy appetite.

Diocletian and the Roman Recovery
Stephen Williams
http://www.amazon.com/Diocletian-Roman- ... 0415918278
Chapter 9, Finance, Taxation, Inflation,
Chapter 10. A Command Economy

PhilosopherJay
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Re: Paul was wealthy

Post by PhilosopherJay » Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:12 am

Hi Beowulf,

Excellent point. We really need to be working from 1st Century prices.

Unfortunately Diocletian's Edict in 301 is by far the best source for information on wages and prices that can be found in any one text. Orbis seems to be using it only to establish relationships between trips. For example, it a trip here cost 100 dinari than a trip there would cost $300 dinari.
Except for Egypt, there is little information about cost and wages in the Roman Empire at other times. Apparently scholars disagree about how to correlate that information.

Some recent papers do seem to suggest that the vast majority of Romans both workers and slaves were extremely poor. For example, see Walter Scheidel and Steven J. Friesen (2009). The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire. Journal of Roman Studies, 99, pp 61-91. doi:10.3815/007543509789745223. https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/s ... 010901.pdf.

Warmly,

Jay Raskin


beowulf wrote:It is difficult to understand why anyone could think that information on the price of commodities in the Roman Empire during the third century AD will provide any useful information on the cost of travel in the first century: using the inflationary period of the Weimar Republic to acquire information about the Germany of Bismarck comes to mind.


This book is an excellent survey of the period with 36 meaty references for those with a healthy appetite.

Diocletian and the Roman Recovery
Stephen Williams
http://www.amazon.com/Diocletian-Roman- ... 0415918278
Chapter 9, Finance, Taxation, Inflation,
Chapter 10. A Command Economy

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