Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Plutarch's Surprising Revelation: Unveiling the Dark Side of Coins

did plutarch know coin was bad

Did Plutarch Know Coin Was Bad?

Plutarch, the renowned Greek philosopher and biographer, was known for his deep understanding of various subjects, including economics, politics, and morality. But did he know that coin, the primary form of currency during his time, had inherent flaws? In this article, we will delve into this fascinating topic and explore whether Plutarch was aware of the downsides of using coins as a medium of exchange.


The Evolution of Coinage

To understand whether Plutarch knew about the drawbacks of coins, it is crucial to delve into the history and evolution of coinage. Coins emerged around the 7th century BCE and quickly became an indispensable tool for trade and commerce. They provided a standardized form of value, making transactions more efficient and convenient.

Plutarch's Philosophical Insights

Plutarch's philosophical works reveal his deep understanding of economic matters. He recognized the power of money and its influence on individuals and society as a whole. Plutarch believed that individuals should strive for virtuous behavior and that excessive love for money could corrupt one's moral compass.

However, it is unclear whether Plutarch explicitly identified the specific flaws inherent in the use of coins. While he acknowledged the potential dangers of wealth accumulation and greed, his writings do not explicitly address the shortcomings of coins as a medium of exchange.

The Hidden Costs of Coinage

Although Plutarch may not have directly discussed the negative aspects of coins, history has shed light on the hidden costs associated with their use. One of the primary drawbacks of coins was their susceptibility to debasement. Rulers often reduced the precious metal content of coins, leading to a decrease in their intrinsic value. This practice aimed to increase the ruler's wealth at the expense of the general population.

Additionally, the introduction of coins led to the emergence of usury and lending practices, which allowed individuals to profit from lending money. This sparked debates among philosophers and economists regarding the morality and fairness of charging interest on loans.

Plutarch's Indirect Critique

Although Plutarch may not have explicitly condemned coinage, his writings contain principles and ideas that indirectly criticize the negative aspects associated with the use of coins. He emphasized the importance of moral virtues, such as justice and honesty, over material wealth. His focus on character development and the pursuit of noble values suggests a subtle critique of the excessive love for money that coins often fostered.

Furthermore, Plutarch's biographies often highlighted the moral shortcomings of rulers who prioritized wealth accumulation over the well-being of their citizens. These narratives indirectly shed light on the negative consequences of a society overly fixated on material possessions.

The Legacy of Plutarch

While it is uncertain whether Plutarch was fully aware of the drawbacks of coinage, his philosophical insights continue to resonate with modern readers. His emphasis on the importance of virtuous behavior and the dangers of excessive wealth accumulation serve as valuable lessons for individuals navigating the complexities of a monetary-driven society.


Plutarch, the esteemed philosopher and biographer, possessed a profound understanding of various subjects, including economics. While it remains uncertain whether he explicitly knew about the specific flaws of coinage, his philosophical principles and indirect critiques suggest an awareness of the negative aspects associated with the use of coins. Plutarch's emphasis on moral virtues and the dangers of excessive love for money continue to resonate with readers today.


1. Did Plutarch advocate for the abolition of coinage?

No, Plutarch did not explicitly advocate for the abolition of coinage. However, his writings emphasized the importance of moral virtues and criticized the excessive love for money.

2. How did rulers benefit from debasing coins?

Rulers benefited from debasing coins by reducing the precious metal content, which allowed them to accumulate more wealth while potentially impoverishing the general population.

3. What were the alternatives to coins during Plutarch's time?

During Plutarch's time, alternatives to coins included bartering, where goods and services were exchanged directly, and other forms of non-monetary exchange.

4. Did Plutarch's philosophical ideas influence later economic thinkers?

While it is challenging to establish direct influence, Plutarch's philosophical ideas, particularly his emphasis on moral virtues and the dangers of excessive wealth, resonate with later economic thinkers and philosophers.

5. What other aspects of society did Plutarch critique?

Plutarch critiqued various aspects of society, including political corruption, the abuse of power, and the erosion of moral values. His biographies often shed light on the consequences of these societal issues.


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