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[SETTING] Money: ERIDU’s Silver System

August 22, 2010

Hullu: Rings of Pure Silver

There is no coinage in ERIDU: it has not been invented yet (or again?). Many common exchanges are through barter, the swapping of goods for each other.  Measures of grain (wheat or barley) are often used in this regard: the gur (300 litres) and sila (1 litre). Wages, especially those given out by palace and temple institutions, are most often paid in rations of grain rather than currency. In the city-states, however, most particularly in Ur, among the mercantile Assyrians, and in Bab-Ilani, there is in place a system of relatively standardised weights of precious metals; and silver is used as a measure of accounting as well as units of exchange.  These units are silver shekels, minas and talents, such that

3600 shekel [ss] = 60 mina [sm] = 1 talent [st]

60 shekel [ss] = 1 mina [sm]

By weight,

1 shekel = c. 8 1/3g (= c. 1/3 oz; 5 1/3 troy pennyweights)

1 mina = 480g (= 16.9 oz.; = 15.43 troy oz.)

1 talent = 30kg (= 66.22 lb; 80.37 troy lb)

For game and exchange purposes, in ERIDU silver often appears in standardised, coil-shaped rings, called hullu or seweru (pictured above), mostly commonly in 1, 5 and 10 shekel coils, as well as 1/2 mina and 1 mina coils. 1 talent ingots are used by the very wealthy; some city-states issue miniature axe-shaped silver ingots of the same denominations, called hashshinu.

Silver forms the basis and standard. For smaller transaction, copper shekels [cs] and mina [cm] also exist. The copper to silver ratio is 180:1; thus

180 copper shekel [cs] = 3 copper mina [cm] = 1 silver shekel [ss]

Another commonly used unit is the gerah, or 1/20th of a shekel.  As 180 cs = 1 ss, a gerah is equivalent to 9 copper shekels.  Throughout ERIDU copper shekels and mina are usually crude lumps, carefully weighed by any merchant engaging in a transaction as he calls upon Shamash to witness his honesty…

In ERIDU the ratio of silver:gold is 1:20 (as it was, among other ratios, in the Ur III period); thus 20 ss = 1 gold shekel.

As silver is the standard, values for treasures, gems, and all other loot will normally be given in ss, and, in ERIDU,

1 ss = 1 XP

for all treasure gained by PCs.

The law-code of the city-state Eshnunna provides a list of commodities, all worth or equivalent to 1 silver shekel:

1 gur (=300l) barley

3l of best oil

1.2 l vegetable oil

11/2l pig fat

40l bitumen

6 mina (3kg) wool

2 gur salt

3 mina copper

2 mina worked copper

And some hireling wages, from which further hireling and henchman wages may be derived, from the Codex Hammurabi:

Hire of a day labourer: in summer, 6 gerah/day; in winter, 5 gerah/day

Potter: 5 gerah/day

Tailor: 5 gerah/day

Ropemaker: 4 gerah/day

Ferryboat hire: 3 gerah/day

Freight-boat hire: 21/2 gerah/day

Hire of oxen: 4 gur grain [i.e., 4 ss]/year

Cattle/sheep herder: 8 gur/year

Farmer/field-labourer: 8 gur/year

These wages then can form the baseline from which equipments lists, upkeep costs, further hireling rates, etc., may be calculated. Assuming that a day labourer may work 150 days in the summer period (from the akitu New Year’s festival in April to August), and some 210 days in the winter period, a living wage appears to be about 97 shekels; a potter or tailor working 350 days would earn 90 shekels a year.  Therefore a baseline of a living minimum wage could be set at about 100 shekels per annum.

Given that a labourer may be earning just under 100 ss a year, adventurers will remain, relatively, fabulously wealthy (until they pay their training costs, of course); but this system may have the benefit of both making gold relatively rarer, while still allowing adventurers to roister, feast and squander in proper heroic fashion.


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