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Ancient Mercantile Crime

THE WELL-KNOWN IMAGE of Diogenes, a philosopher living in the 4th century B.C.E., swinging his lantern as he wanders through the streets of ancient Greece in a vain search for an honest man, vividly conveys the lesson that white-collar crime not only flourished in that culture at that time but, more generally, can be found to varying degrees in every large society throughout the history of humankind.

Diogenes' own life underlines the point. His father, responsible for minting coins for public use, was convicted of adulterating the coins with base metals. Diogenes then left Sinope, the Greek shipping center on the Black Sea where he had been born, for Athens. He later settled in Corinth, where he preached against the accumulation of riches and luxurious living.

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