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An ancient Greek amphora. A talent was approximately the mass of the water required to fill an amphora

The talent (Latin: talentum, from Ancient Greek: τάλαντον "scale, balance") was one of several ancient units of mass, as well as corresponding units of value equivalent to these masses of a precious metal.[1] It was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora.[1] A Greek, or Attic talent, was 26 kg,[2] a Roman talent was 32.3 kg, an Egyptian talent was 27 kg,[2] and a Babylonian talent was 30.3 kg.[3] Ancient Israel adopted the Babylonian talent, but later revised the mass.[4] The heavy common talent, used in New Testament times, was 58.9 kg.[4]

An Attic talent of silver had a purchasing power of approximately $20,000 in 2004 money.[5] It was also the value of nine man-years of skilled work.[6] During the Peloponnesian War, an Attic talent was the amount of silver that would pay a month's wages of a trireme crew.[7] Hellenistic mercenaries were commonly paid one drachma per day of military service. There were 6,000 drachmae in an Attic talent.

The Babylonians, Sumerians, and Hebrews divided a talent into 60 mina, each of which was subdivided into 60 shekels. The Greek also used the ratio of 60 mina to one talent. A Greek mina was approximately 434 ± 3 grams. A Roman talent was 100 libra. A libra is exactly three quarters of a Greek mina, so a Roman talent is 1.25 Greek talents. An Egyptian talent was 80 libra.[2]

The talent as a unit of value is mentioned in the New Testament in Jesus's parable of the talents.[8] This parable is the origin of the sense of the word "talent" meaning "gift or skill" as used in English and other languages. Luke includes a similar parable with different details involving the mina.[9] The talent is also used elsewhere in the Bible, as when describing the material invested in the dwelling of the commandments.[10] Solomon received 666 gold talents a year.[11]

References

  1. ^ a b Talent (Biblical Hebrew), unit of measure, unitconversion.org.
  2. ^ a b c John William Humphrey, John Peter Oleson, Andrew Neil Sherwood, Greek and Roman technology, p.487.
  3. ^ Herodotus, Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald, The histories (1998), p. 593.
  4. ^ a b "III. Measures of Weight:", JewishEncyclopedia.com
  5. ^ "Life of Crassus"
  6. ^ Engen, Darel. "The Economy of Ancient Greece", EH.Net Encyclopedia, 2004.
  7. ^ Torr, Cecil, "Triremes", The Classical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Mar., 1906), p. 137
  8. ^ Matthew 25:14-30
  9. ^ Luke 19:12-27
  10. ^ Exodus 38
  11. ^ 2 Chronicles 9:13
    1 Kings 10:14
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