Did the Phoenicians Introduce the Idea of Interest to Greece and Italy – and if so When?

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(from the Temples of Enterprise book in progress) Delivered at a symposium at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, March 15th-16th, 1990, this article was published in Gunter Kopcke and Isabelle Tokumaru, eds, Greece between East and West: 10th – 8th Centuries BC (Mainz: Verlag Phillip von Zabern, 1992). This paper seeks to establish that interest‑bearing debts were introduced to the Mediterranean lands from the Near East, most likely by Syrian (“Phoenician”) merchants in the 8th century BC along with their better known innovations such as alphabetic writing. Contrary to what was believed until quite recently, such debts – and for that matter, commercial and agrarian debts even without interest charges – are by no means a spontaneous and universal ...