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government department related to finance
Treasury buildings: the offices of H.M. Treasury in Whitehall

A Treasury is either:

  1. Originally, a place where money, gold and other treasure is kept.
  2. Today, a government department which deals with money supply, taxation and financial policy.



The treasury of Athens at Delphi, built with the spoils of the Battle of Marathon
The treasury of Petra

The treasury as a place to keep the king's (or city's) gold and valuables has a long history. The winners in a war would take back whatever they wanted, and slaves and booty were top of the list. The first recorded booty in history is a stele taken during 1160 BC.[1][2][3]

The earliest found artefacts made of silver and gold are from Lake Varna in Bulgaria dated 4250–4000 BC,[4][5] the earliest made of copper are dated 9000–7000 BC.[6]

"...And there was also silver weighing many thousands of talents and all the royal treasure amounting to a very great sum..." Procopius of Caesarea.[7]

The term treasury was first used in classical antiquity to describe the places built for gifts to the gods. An example is the Siphnian Treasury in Delphi. Many similar buildings were put up in Olympia, Greece by city-states hoping to impress others during the ancient Olympic Games. In Ancient Greece treasuries were almost always inside religious buildings such as temples. This made state funds sacrosanct, and adding moral constraints to the punishment for thieves.

The sovereigns' treasury in the palace in ancient Jerusalem,was similar in nature to the temple treasury.[8] Those treasuries had officials, and worked rather like a bank.[9]

" fact, practically in every city there are banking places for the holy money..." Philo.[10]

In excavations of Persopolis a text about to the activities of a treasury were discovered. It dates to the fifth century BC. The texts were written in the Elamite language.[11][12][13]

The ancient Roman word aerarium signified the treasury of the Senate, fiscus was used to indicate the imperial treasury used by Caesar.[14][15] They had, as we do, the distinction between a treasury as a store of valuables, and the treasury as an office of finance.

Treasuries in modern governmentEdit

H.M. TreasuryEdit

In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Treasury is overseen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The traditional honorary title of First Lord of the Treasury is held by the Prime Minister. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs administers the taxation system.

In the United States, the Treasurer reports to an executive-appointed Secretary of the Treasury. The IRS is the revenue agency of the US Department of the Treasury.

Ministry of FinanceEdit

In many other countries, the treasury is called the Ministry of Finance. Its head is known as the Finance Minister. Examples include New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Japan.


In some other countries, a Treasury will co-exist with a separate Ministry of Finance, with divided functions.

The government of Poland includes the Ministry of Finance as well as the Ministry of State Treasury, as does the government of the Ukraine. It was the same in Italy before the creation of the united Ministry of Economy. In the Australian federal government a treasurer and a finance minister co-exist.


  1. Neer, Richard T. 2001. Framing the gift: the politics of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi. Classical Antiquity 20, 2, 273–344. [1] Retrieved 2012-06-16
  2. K Roberts 2011. The origins of business, money, and markets. Columbia University Press,. ISBN 0231153260. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  3. L Rothfield 2009. The Rape of Mesopotamia: behind the looting of the Iraq Museum. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved 2012-07-07 ISBN 0226729451
  4. S La Niece 2009. Gold Harvard University Press. Retrieved 2012-04-10 ISBN 0674035909
  5. T Mohide 1992. The international silver trade Woodhead Publishing, 28 Jul 1992 Retrieved 2012-07-05 ISBN 1855730677
  6. I McNeil 1990. An encyclopaedia of the history of technology Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 2012-07-05 ISBN 0415013062
  7. L Fargo Brown, G Barr Carson 1971. Men and centuries of European civilization. Ayer Publishing. Retrieved 2012-04-10 ISBN 0836921003
  8. M Haran 1977. Temples and Temple-service in ancient Israel̈: An inquiry into biblical cult phenomena and the historical setting of the priestly school Eisenbrauns, Retrieved 2012-07-03 ISBN 0931464188
  9. T Wardle 2010. The Jerusalem Temple and early Christian identity. Mohr Siebeck. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 3161505689
  10. M E Stevens 2006. Temples, tithes, and taxes: the Temple and the economic life of ancient Israel. Baker Academic. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 0801047773
  11. H G M Williamson 2004. Studies in Persian period history and historiography. Mohr Siebeck. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 3161482611
  12. J Boardman 1988. The Cambridge Ancient History: Persia, Greece and the western Mediterranean c. 525 to 479 B.C. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 0521228042
  13. D T Potts 1999. The archaeology of Elam: formation and transformation of an ancient Iranian state Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 0521564964
  14. L Adkins, R A Adkins 1988. Handbook to life in ancient Rome. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2012-07-04 ISBN 0195123328
  15. Sir William Smith 1853. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities C.C. Little and J. Brown Retrieved 2012-07-04