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HISTORY OF BANKING
 
 


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Safe in the temple: 18th century BC

Wealth compressed into the convenient form of gold brings one disadvantage. Unless well hidden or protected, it is easily stolen.

In early civilizations a temple is considered the safest refuge; it is a solid building, constantly attended, with a sacred character which itself may deter thieves. In Egypt and Mesopotamia gold is deposited in temples for safe-keeping. But it lies idle there, while others in the trading community or in government have desperate need of it. In Babylon at the time of Hammurabi, in the 18th century BC, there are records of loans made by the priests of the temple. The concept of banking has arrived.
 








Greek and Roman financiers: from the 4th century BC

Banking activities in Greece are more varied and sophisticated than in any previous society. Private entrepreneurs, as well as temples and public bodies, now undertake financial transactions. They take deposits, make loans, change money from one currency to another and test coins for weight and purity.

They even engage in book transactions. Moneylenders can be found who will accept payment in one Greek city and arrange for credit in another, avoiding the need for the customer to transport or transfer large numbers of coins.
 









Rome, with its genius for administration, adopts and regularizes the banking practices of Greece. By the 2nd century AD a debt can officially be discharged by paying the appropriate sum into a bank, and public notaries are appointed to register such transactions.

The collapse of trade after the fall of the Roman empire makes bankers less necessary than before, and their demise is hastened by the hostility of the Christian church to the charging of interest. Usury comes to seem morally offensive. One anonymous medieval author declares vividly that 'a usurer is a bawd to his own money bags, taking a fee that they may engender together'.
 






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