A Glimpse at International Banking, 50 BCE

Of the booty taken by me no one, except the quaestors of the city—that is, the Roman people—has touched or will touch a farthing. At Laodicea I think I shall accept sureties for all public money, so that both I and the people may be insured against loss in transit. As to what you say about the 100,000 drachmae, in a matter of that kind no concession to anyone is possible on my part. For every sum of money is either treated as booty, in which case it is administered by the praefecti or it is paid over to me, in which case it is administered by the quaestor.

This is a very, very cranky letter (even for Cicero!) written as he’s leaving his governorship of Cilicia at the end of his term to the (much lower ranking) proquaestor serving as acting governor in the adjoining province of Syria.  The interesting part to me is the idea that there was such sophisticated banking that Cicero could choose not to travel with the vast amount of wealth he acquired and instead take only the surety of the deposit with him back to Rome.  This isn’t just good enough for personal transaction, but also for state business.

Interested in this sort of thing?  The go-to book is Hollander, Money in the Late Roman Republic.

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