Talent (weight)

Talent (weight)

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The "talent" was one of several ancient units of mass
Mass
Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

, as well as corresponding units of value equivalent to these masses of a precious metal. It was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora
Amphora (measure)
The amphora, or amphora quadrantal was a unit for measuring liquids or bulk goods in the Roman Empire, and for estimating the size of ships and the production of vineyards.The volume of a standard amphora is equal to one cubic foot....

. A Greek, or Attic talent
Attic talent
The Attic talent , also known as the Athenian talent or Greek talent, is an ancient unit of mass equal to 26 kg, as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver. A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora . At the 2009 price of $414/kg, a...

, was 26 kilograms (57.3 lb), a Roman talent was 32.3 kilograms (71.2 lb), an Egyptian talent was 27 kilograms (59.5 lb), and a Babylonian talent was 30.3 kilograms (66.8 lb). 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 58.9 kilograms (129.9 lb).

The talent of gold was known to Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, who described how Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 gave a half-talent of gold to Antilochus
Antilochus
In Greek mythology, Antilochus was the son of Nestor, king of Pylos. One of the suitors of Helen of Troy, he accompanied his father and his brother Thrasymedes to the Trojan War. He was distinguished for his beauty, swiftness of foot, and skill as a charioteer...

 as a prize. An Attic talent of silver was the value of nine man-years of skilled work. During the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

, an Attic talent was the amount of silver that would pay a month's wages of a trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

 crew. 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
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

 divided a talent into 60 mina
Mina (unit)
The mina is an ancient Near Eastern unit of weight equivalent to 60 shekels. The mina, like the shekel, was also a unit of currency; in ancient Greece it was equal to 100 drachmae. In the first century AD, it amounted to about a fourth of the wages earned annually by an agricultural worker...

, each of which was subdivided into 60 shekel
Shekel
Shekel , is any of several ancient units of weight or of currency. The first usage is from Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. Initially, it may have referred to a weight of barley...

s. The Greek also used the ratio of 60 mina to one talent. A Greek mina was approximately 434 ± 3 gram
Gram
The gram is a metric system unit of mass....

s. 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
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 in Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

's parable of the talents
Parable of the Talents
The Parable of the talents or minas, , is one of the well known parables of Jesus. It appears in two of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. The differences between Matthew and the Luke are substantial, and the two parables may not be derived from the same source...

. This parable is the origin of the sense of the word "talent" meaning "gift or skill" as used in English and other languages. Luke includes a similar parable with different details involving the mina
Mina (unit)
The mina is an ancient Near Eastern unit of weight equivalent to 60 shekels. The mina, like the shekel, was also a unit of currency; in ancient Greece it was equal to 100 drachmae. In the first century AD, it amounted to about a fourth of the wages earned annually by an agricultural worker...

. The talent is also used elsewhere in the Bible, as when describing the material invested in the dwelling of the commandments. Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

received 666 gold talents a year.