History’s first sovereign default came in the 4th century BC, committed by 10 Greek municipalities. There was one creditor: the temple of Delos, Apollo’s mythical birthplace.

Twenty-four centuries later, Greece is at the edge of the biggest sovereign default, and policy makers are worried about global shock waves of an insolvency by a government with 353 billion euros ($483 billion) of debt — five times the size of Argentina’s $95 billion default in 2001.

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