The links between Washington D.C. and Wall Street have always been strong. The current atmosphere of disdain and popular protest has meant that the close relations between the federal government and the financial sector have been pushed under the proverbial rug, but they still remain. A recent HuffPo article explored some of these key bankers-slash-federal employees, noting that the current CEO of Promonotory Financial Group used to be Comptroller of the Currency under Bill Clinton, the current Attorney General worked at Covington & Burling, and even Fannie Mae's CEO used to be the General Counsel for Bank of America. This interplay between bankers and government officials is an old one--and perhaps holds a few lessons on the necessity for regulation and oversight within the financial sector today.
|The figure between the emperor|
Justinian and Maximianus
could be the patron-banker
|Gold solidus of Justinian minted at |
Now at the British Museum
We know relatively little about the relations between Julius Argentarius and Justinian directly; however, it appears that bankers on the whole did play a key role in the sixth century political scene. Certainly it was (and still is) key to have experienced veteran financial analysts and planners in state positions that require handling of the fiscus and minting coinage, but the example of Peter Barsymes in particular would seem to indicate the need for oversight when investing those used to private enterprise into positions meant to be for the public good. I know I for one will be mindful to thank Julius Argentarius for his patronage of the brilliant mosaics at San Vitale next time I gawk in awe, but will not forget that his prosperity was likely also due to the state policies and attitudes towards bankers in the sixth century.
Agnellus of Ravenna, The Book of the Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna: Agnellus of Ravenna (Medieval Texts in Translation) (Catholic University, 2004).
Jean Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World (Cambridge, 1999).
S.J.B. Barnish, "The Wealth of Julius Argentarius: Late Antique Banking and the Mediterranean Economy," Byzantion 55 (1985), 5-38.
J.A.S. Evans, The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power (Routledge, 1996).