talent

The talent (, from Ancient Greek: , talanton ‘scale, balance, sum’) was one of several ancient units of mass, a commercial weight, as well as corresponding units of value equivalent to these masses of a precious metal. The talent of gold was known to Homer, who described how Achilles gave a half-talent of gold to Antilochus as a prize. It was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora. A Greek, or Attic talent, was , a Roman talent was , an Egyptian talent was , and a Babylonian talent was . Ancient Israel, and other Levantine countries, adopted the Babylonian talent, but later revised the mass. The heavy common talent, used in New Testament times, was . An Attic talent of silver was the value of nine man-years of skilled work. During the Peloponnesian War, an Attic talent was the amount of silver that would pay a month’s wages of a trireme crew of 200 men. Hellenistic mercenaries were commonly paid one drachma per day of military service. There were 6,000 drachmae in an Attic talent. The Babylonians, Sumerians, and Hebrews divided a talent into 60 mina, each of which was subdivided into 60 shekels. The Greek also used the ratio of 60 mina to one talent. A Greek mina was approximately 434 ± 3 grams. A Roman talent was 100 libra. A libra is exactly three quarters of a Greek mina, so a Roman talent is 1.25 Greek talents. An Egyptian talent was 80 libra. The talent as a unit of value is mentioned in the New Testament in Jesus’s parable of the talents. This parable is the origin of the use of the word “talent” to mean “gift or skill” in English and other languages. Luke includes a similar parable with different details involving the mina. The talent is found in another parable of Jesus where a servant who is forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents refuses to forgive another servant who owes him only one hundred denarii. The talent is also used elsewhere in the Bible, as when describing the material invested in the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon received 666 gold talents a year. In the Old Testament Book of Esther, Haman pledges 10,000 talents of silver to King Ahushuerus for the privilege of destroying the Jews.