Was it trade or their “psyche”?
It may seem obvious to us that commercial imperatives would have driven the invention of money. But human beings conducted trade for millennia without coinage, and it’s not certain that the first monetised economy in the world arose in ancient Greece simply in order to facilitate such transactions.
The classicist Richard Seaford has argued that the invention of money emerged from deep in the Greek psyche. It is tied to notions of reciprocal exchange and obligation which pervaded their societies; it reflects philosophical distinctions between face-value and intrinsic value; and it is a political instrument, since the state is required to act as guarantor of monetary value.
Financial instruments and institutions – coinage, mints, contracts, banking, credit and debt – were being developed in many Greek cities by the 5th Century BC, with Athens at the forefront. But one ancient state held the notion of money in deep suspicion and resisted its introduction: Sparta.
See other: Which Greek Legends Were Really True?