7. The Meaning of feidwvneia mevtra

If instead of making 69 iron drachmae equal to a silver mina and then adding extra iron as agio, the relation (mevtra) was directly calculated at 70 drachmae to a mina, this relation was called feidwvneia mevtra or mevtra ta; feidwvneia kalouvmena.[106] This phrase means ”short relation.” According to this relation the drachma is worth less silver than according to the one which does not take agio into account.

From the root of the verb feivdomai, “to be chary of,” comes the noun feidwv; this must have had a parallel form feidwvn,[107] from which is derived the adjective feidwvnio" or feidwvneio".

Feidwv, or its equivalent feidwliva, is the quality of being petty, in the sense of being concerned with trifling gains; it is the quality of not having a sense of proportion in matters of economic profit.

Aristotle ars rhet. II 1390 b

kai; oujte pro;" to; kalo;n zw'nte" movnon ou[te pro;" to; sumfevron ajlla; pro;" a[mfw, kai; ou[te pro;" feidw; ou[te pro;" ajswtivan ajlla; pro;" to; ajrmovtton.

The concept of feidwv is associated with that of mikrologiva and that of mikroprepeiva, as appears best of all from a reading of the Characters of Theophrastos and of the Epistulae Rusticae of Alkiphron. In dealing with the character of the mikrovlogo", the man who proves himself a miser in trifling matters, Theophrastos states (X. 1): e[sti de; hJ mikrologiva feidwliva tou' diafovrou uJpe;r to;n kairovn. “Pettiness consists in grudging small differences when the case would not warrant it.” The mikrovlogo" maintains that the many petty differences he insists upon (feidwliva) will mean quite a deal at the end of the year (ibid. 13). When he goes to a public bath he carries the oil to annoint himself in a very small oil flask (ibid. 14: lhkuvqion mikrovn). The lhkuvqion is a little oil flask which is so small that in Aristophanes’ Ranae the statement lhkuvqion ajpwvlesen is cause for repeated laughter. Hence, a lhkuvqion mikrovn must be small indeed and, possibly, may be identified with the feivdwn, an oil container mentioned by Pollux:

X 179

ei[h d ja]n kai; feivdwn ti ajggei'on ejlaihro'n, ajpo; tw'n feidwnivwn mevtron wjnomasmevnon, uJpe;r w|n ejn  jArgeivwn politeiva / jAristotevlh" levgei

The relation between the oil container feivdwn and the feidwvnia mevtra is a pure speculation of Pollux who had found the latter mentioned by Aristotle; Pollux, not having understood the meaning of mevtra, took it that, as the plural of mevtron, it meant “measure of capacity.” The feivdwn is not one of the feidwvnia mevtra, as Pollux thinks; but the two words feivdwn and feidwvnio" have this much in common, that both convey the idea of being smaller than something else.

In describing the character of the aijscrokerdhv", the man who is not ashamed to make an unjust profit in trifling matters, Theophrastos calls a measure of capacity smaller than it should be a feidwvneion mevtron:

XXX 11

feidwneiw/ mevtrw/, to;n pundaka eijskekroumevnw/, metrei'n aujto;" toi'" e[ndon ta; sfovdra ajpogw'n

“He deals out in person the victuals to his household using a short measure, the bottom of which has been knocked in, and carefully striking off from the top the overflow.” The same individual tries to cheat the public bath of the oil contained in a lhkuvqion (ibid., 8). If somebody pays him a small sum in copper, he asks to be paid for the agio (ejpikatallaghv) of silver over copper.

Ibid. 15

kai; para; paido;" komizovmeno" ajpoifora;n, tou' calkou' th;n katallagh;n prosapaitein'n, kai' logismo;n de; lambavnwn para; tou' ceirivzonto"

“If money which his slave has earned working for hire is paid him in copper, he demands the agio and calls the steward to calculate it for him.” Most editors[108] have judged this passage as corrupt and in need of emendation, because they could not understand its full meaning. This passage shows that the insistence on collecting the amount due for agio, may be called feidwv. In the same spirit, since the allowance for wear and tear of coins enters into the concept of agio,[109] Theophrastos calls a boor (ajgroiko") one who refuses coins because they do not come up to their due weight.

IV 113

kai; to; ajrguvrion de; parav tou labw;n ajpodokimavzein, livan levgwn lepro;n ei\nai, kai; e{teron ajptallavttesqai

On the contrary, one who wants to appear splendid pays a debt of a mina entirely in new coins (XXI 3).

Alkiphron too calls a “short measure” feidwlo;n mevtron:

II 21, 1 Schepers

peri; ta;" dovsei" katevsth mikroprepevstero" kai; feidwvlw/ tw/' mevtrw kevcrhtai.

In the light of this passage and of the similar one of Theophrastos, it is possible to understand the meaning of mevdimnoi feidwvneioi in an inscription of Delphoi:


[106]Aristotle resp. Athen. X, resp. Argiv. fr. 98 Rose; Ephoros fr. 115 Jacoby.

[107]A gloss documents a form feidwv" (Liddell and Scott, s.v.). The forms in -wv and in wvn, although of different origin, are often confused (Chantraine, op. cit., 117, 160). A number of nouns in -wvn are declined like those in -wv. Some nouns have both forms, as in ajhdwv, ajhdwvn.

[108]Richard Claverhouse Jebb, The Characters of Theophrastus, A New Edition Edited by John Edwin Sandys (London, 1909), 208; Octave Navarre, Theophraste: Charactères (Paris, 1920), 71, n. 11.

[109]The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, vol. II (New York, 1912), s.v. agio.