Economy of ancient Greece

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The ancient Greek economy is somewhat of an enigma. Given the remoteness of ancient Greek civilization, the evidence is minimal and difficulties of interpretation abound. Ancient Greek civilization flourished from around to 30 B. Throughout these periods of ancient Greek civilization, the level of technology was nothing like it is today and values developed that shaped the economy in unique ways.

Thus, despite ancient greece trade by the parthenon a century of investigation, scholars are still debating the nature of the ancient Greek economy. Moreover, the evidence is insufficient to employ all but the most basic quantitative methods of modern economic analysis and has forced scholars to employ other more qualitative methods of investigation. This brief article, therefore, will not include any of the statistics, tables, charts, or graphs that normally accompany economic studies.

Rather, it will attempt to set out the types of evidence available for studying the ancient Greek economy, to describe briefly the long-running debate about the ancient Greek economy and the most widely accepted model of it, and then to ancient greece trade by the parthenon a basic view of the various sectors of the ancient Greek economy during the three major phases of its history. In addition, reference will be made to some recent scholarly trends in the field.

Although the ancient Greeks achieved a high degree of sophistication in their political, philosophical, and literary analyses and have, therefore, left us with a significant amount of evidence concerning these matters, few Greeks attempted what we would call sophisticated economic analysis. Nonetheless, the ancient Greeks did engage in economic activity. They produced and exchanged goods both in local and long distance trade and had monetary systems to facilitate their exchanges.

These activities have left behind material remains and are described in various contexts scattered throughout the extant writings of the ancient Greeks.

Ancient greece trade by the parthenon of our evidence for the ancient Greek economy concerns Athens in the Classical period and includes literary works, such as legal speeches, philosophical dialogues and treatises, historical narratives, and dramas and other poetic writings. Demosthenes, Lysias, Isokrates, and other Attic Orators have left us with numerous speeches, several of which concern economic matters, usually within the context of a lawsuit.

But although these speeches illuminate some aspects of ancient Greek contracts, loans, trade, and other economic activity, one must analyze them with care on account of the biases and distortions inherent in legal speeches.

Philosophical works, especially those of Xenophon, Plato, and Aristotle, provide us with an insight into how the ancient Greeks perceived and analyzed economic matters.

We learn about the place of economic activities within the Greek city-state, value system, and social and political institutions. One drawback of such evidence, however, is that the authors of these works were without exception members of the elite, and their political perspective and disdain for day-to-day economic activity should not necessarily be taken to represent the views of all or even the majority of ancient Greeks.

The ancient Greek historians ancient greece trade by the parthenon themselves primarily with politics and warfare. But within these contexts, one can find bits of information here and there about public finance and other economic matters. Thucydides, for example, does takes care to describe the financial resources of Athens during the Peloponnesian War.

Poems and dramas also contain evidence concerning the ancient Greek economy. One can find random references to trade, manufacturing, the status of businessmen, and other economic matters. Of course, one must be careful to account for genre and audience in addition to the personal perspective of the author when using such sources for information about the economy.

The plays of Aristophanes, for example, make many references to economic activities, but such references are often characterized by stereotyping and exaggeration for comedic purposes. One of the most extensive collections of economic documents is the papyri from Greek-controlled Egypt during the Hellenistic period.

The Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt developed an extensive bureaucracy to oversee numerous economic activities and like all bureaucracies, they kept detailed records of their administration. Thus, the papyri include information about such things as taxes, government-controlled lands and labor, and the unique numismatic policies of the Ptolemies. Epigraphic ancient greece trade by the parthenon comes in the form of stone inscriptions from public and private institutions.

Boundary markers placed on land used as security for loans, called horoiwere often inscribed with the terms of the loans. States such as Athens inscribed honorary decrees for those who had done outstanding services for the state, including economic ones.

States also inscribed accounts for public building projects and leases of public lands or mines. In addition, religious sanctuaries frequently inscribed accounts of monies and other assets, such as produce, land, and buildings, under their control. Although accounts tend to be free of human biases, honorary decrees are much more complex and the historian must be careful to consider the perspective of their issuing ancient greece trade by the parthenon when interpreting them.

Archaeological evidence is free of some of the representational complexities of the literary and epigraphic evidence. Pottery finds can tell us about pottery manufacture and trade. The vase types indicate the goods they contained, such as olive oil, wine, or grain. The distribution of finds of ancient pottery ancient greece trade by the parthenon, therefore, ancient greece trade by the parthenon us the extent of trade in various goods.

But such archaeological evidence is not without its drawbacks as well. Furthermore, it is always dangerous to attempt to extrapolate broad conclusions about the economy from a small number of finds, since we can never be sure if those finds are representative of larger phenomena or merely exceptional cases that archaeologists happened to stumble upon.

Some ancient greece trade by the parthenon the most spectacular and informative finds in recent years have been made under the waters of the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas by what is known as marine or nautical archaeology.

Ancient shipwrecks containing goods for trade have opened new doors to the study of ancient Greek merchant vessels, manufacturing, and trade.

Although the field is relatively new, it has already yielded much new data and promises great things for the future. As stated above, the ancient Greek economy has been the subject of a long-running debate that continues to this day. In addition, confusion arose over whether the ancient Greek economy was like a modern economy in quantity scale or quality its organizing principles.

Lastly, such terms clearly attempt to characterize the ancient Greek economy as a whole and do not distinguish differences among regions or city-states of Greece, time periods, or sectors of the economy agriculture, banking, long distance trade, etc. Seeing extensive trade and use of money in Greece from the fifth century B. On the other hand, seeing traditional Greek social and political values that disdained the productive, impersonal, and industrial nature of modern market economies, the primitivists downplayed the existence of extensive trade and the use of money in the economy.

Neither primitivists nor modernists could conceive of the existence of extensive trade and the use of money unless the ancient Greek economy was organized according to market principles. Historical methods were also a factor in the debate. Traditional ancient historians who relied on philology and archaeology tended to side with the modernist interpretation, whereas historians who employed new methods drawn from sociology and anthropology tended to hold to the primitivist view.

For example, Michael Rostovtzeff assembled a wealth of archaeological data to argue that the scale of the ancient Greek economy in the Hellenistic period was so great that it could not be considered primitive. A turning point in the debate came with the work of Karl Polanyi who drew on anthropological methods to argue that economies need not be organized according to the independent and self-regulating institutions of a market system.

The latter, which is typical of economic analysis today, is appropriate only for market economies. Market economies operate independently of non-economic institutions and their most characteristic feature is that prices are ancient greece trade by the parthenon according to an aggregate derived from the impersonal forces of supply and demand among a group of interconnected markets.

But material goods may be produced, exchanged, and valued by means other than ancient greece trade by the parthenon institutions. Such means may be tied to non-economic social and political institutions, including gift exchange or state-controlled redistribution and price-setting.

Polanyi concluded that ancient Greece did not have a developed market system until the Hellenistic period. Thus, Polanyi opened the door through which scholars could begin to examine the ancient Greek economy free from the normative parameters originally imposed on the debate. Unfortunately, the grip of the old parameters has been very strong and the debate has never completely freed itself from their influence.

Ancient greece trade by the parthenon present the most widely accepted model of the ancient Greek economy is that which was first set forth by Moses Finley in This view owes much to the Weber-Hasebroek-Polanyi line of analysis ancient greece trade by the parthenon holds that the ancient Greek economy was fundamentally different from the market economy that predominates in most of the world today.

Not only was the ancient Greek economy much smaller in scale than economies today, it also differed greatly in quality. Economic activity was necessary in this system only in so far as the individual male citizen had to provide sustenance for himself and his family. This could be accomplished simply by farming a small plot of land. Beyond that, the male citizen was expected to devote himself to the wellbeing of the community by participating in the public religious, political, and military life of the polis.

On the other hand, ancient Greek values held in low esteem economic activities that were not subordinated to the traditional activities of managing the family farm and obtaining goods for necessary consumption. A life on the land, farming to produce only so much as was needed for consumption and leaving enough leisure time for active participation in the public life of the poliswas the social ideal.

Production and exchange were to be undertaken only for personal need, to ancient greece trade by the parthenon out friends, or to benefit the community as a whole. Such activities were not to be undertaken simply to make a profit and certainly not to obtain capital for future investment and economic growth. Given the limits put on economic activity by traditional values and the absence of a modern conception of the economy, agriculture comprised the bulk of production and exchange.

Most production, therefore, was carried out in the countryside and cities were net consumers rather than producers, living off the surplus of the countryside.

With limited technology and no understanding of economies of scale, cities were not hubs of industry, and manufacturing existed only on a small scale. Cities were mainly places for people to live as well as religious and governmental centers. Their contribution to the economy was only to demand the surplus produce of the countryside, manufacture limited amounts of goods, and provide market places and ports of trade for the exchange of goods.

Since the bulk of economic wealth was produced from the land and banausic occupations were not esteemed, the elite of ancient Greek society were landowners who consequently dominated politics, even in democratic poleis like Athens. Such men had little interest in manufacturing, business, and trade and, like their society as a whole, did not consider the economy as a distinct sphere separate from social and political concerns. Thus, their official policies with regard to the economy were much different from that of modern states.

Modern states undertake policies with specifically economic goals, desiring in particular to ancient greece trade by the parthenon their national economy more productive, to expand or grow, thereby increasing the per capita wealth of the state.

Ancient Greek city-states, on the other hand, had an interest and involvement in what we would call economic activities trade, minting coins, production, etc. Thus, prices were set according to local conditions and personal relationships rather than in accordance with the impersonal forces of supply and demand. This was so in part because of the Greek socio-political emphasis on self-sufficiency autarkeiabut also because the physical environment and industry of the eastern Mediterranean tended to produce similar goods, so that there were few items that a city-state needed which could not be obtained from within its own boundaries.

The former goal could be fulfilled by making laws that required or provided incentives for traders to bring grain into the city. Laws such as these were merely extensions of traditional political policies, like conquest and plunder, but in which a less violent form of acquisition would now be undertaken. But though the means had changed, the ends were still political; there was no interest in the economy per se.

The same holds true for the traditional need of city-states for revenue to pay for public projects, such as temple building and road maintenance. Here again, old and often violent methods of obtaining revenue were augmented through such things as taxes on trade. But although the general picture it presents of the ancient Greek economy has not been superceded, the model is not without flaws.

It was inevitable that Finley would overstate his model, since it attempted to encompass the general character of the ancient Greek economy as a whole. Thus, the model makes little distinction between different regions or city-states of Greece, even though it is clear that the economies of Athens and Sparta, for example, were quite different in many respects. Finley also treats the various sectors of the economy agriculture, labor, manufacturing, long-distance trade, ancient greece trade by the parthenon, etc.

But they have been matched by just as many studies that have revealed exceptions to the model. Thus, one recent trend in the scholarship has been to try to revise the Finley model in light of focused studies of particular sectors of the economy at specific times and places. Another trend has been simply to ignore the Finley model and bypass the old debate altogether by examining the ancient greece trade by the parthenon Greek economy in ways that make them irrelevant.

Basically, given the quantity and the quality of the available evidence, our attempts to understand the ancient Greek economy are greatly affected by the perspective from which we approach it. We can choose to try to characterize the entire ancient Greek economy in general, to see the forest as it were, and debate whether it was more or less similar to our own. Or we can focus in on the trees and undertake narrow studies ancient greece trade by the parthenon particular sectors of the ancient Greek economy at specific times and places.

Both approaches are useful and not necessarily mutually exclusive.

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The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region's dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece 's soil , agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece's paramount location, as its position in the Mediterranean gave its provinces control over some of Egypt's most crucial seaports and trade routes. Beginning in the 6th century BC, trade craftsmanship and commerce , principally maritime , became pivotal aspects of Greek economic output.

Greece lacked a consolidated, centralized economy in the modern sense of the word. There was a relative absence of contemporary phrases to describe overarching systems of commerce and trade organization, and economics was primarily understood in terms of the localized management of necessary goods. Greek soil has been likened to "stinginess" or "tightness" Ancient Greek: The olive tree and grapevine were complemented by the cultivation of herbs , vegetables , and oil-producing plants.

Husbandry was badly developed due to a lack of available land. Sheep and goats were the most common types of livestock. Woods were heavily exploited, first for domestic use and eventually to build triremes. Bees were kept to produce honey , the only source of sugar known to the ancient Greeks.

Agricultural work followed the rhythm of the seasons: In the ancient era, most land was held by the aristocracy. During the 7th century BC, demographic expansion and the distribution of successions created tensions between these landowners and the peasants.

In Athens , this was changed by Solon 's reforms, which eliminated debt bondage and protected the peasant class. Nonetheless, a Greek aristocrat's domains remained small compared with the Roman latifundia. Much of the craftsmanship of ancient Greece was part of the domestic sphere.

However, the situation gradually changed between the 8th and 4th centuries BC, with the increased commercialization of the Greek economy. Thus, weaving and baking , activities so important to the Western late medieval economy, were done only by women before the 6th century BC. After the growth of commerce, slaves started to be used widely in workshops. Only fine dyed tissues, like those made with Tyrian purple , were created in workshops.

On the other hand, working with metal , leather , wood , or clay was a specialized activity that was looked down upon by most Greeks. The basic workshop was often family-operated. Lysias 's shield manufacture employed slaves; Demosthenes ' father, a maker of swords , used After the death of Pericles in BC, a new class emerged: Examples include Cleon and Anytus , noted tannery owners, and Kleophon , whose factory produced lyres.

Non-slave workers were paid by assignment, since the workshops could not guarantee regular work. In Athens, those who worked on state projects were paid one drachma per day, no matter what craft they practiced.

The workday generally began at sunrise and ended in the afternoon. The potter's work consisted of selecting the clay, fashioning the vase, drying and painting and baking it, and applying varnish. Part of the production went to domestic usage dishes, containers, oil lamps or for commercial purposes, and the rest served religious or artistic functions. Techniques for working with clay have been known since the Bronze Age ; the potter's wheel is a very ancient invention. The ancient Greeks did not add any innovations to these processes [ citation needed ].

The creation of artistically decorated vases in Greece had strong foreign influences. For instance, the famed black-figure style of Corinthian potters was most likely derived from the Syrian style of metalworking. The heights to which the Greeks brought the art of ceramics is therefore due entirely to their artistic sensibilities and not to technical ingenuity.

Pottery in ancient Greece was most often the work of slaves. Many of the potters of Athens assembled between the agora and the Dipylon, in the Kerameikon. They most often operated as small workshops, consisting of a master, several paid artisans, and slaves. Deposits of metal ore are common in Greece. Of these, the best known are the silver mines of Laurium. These mines contributed to the development of Athens in the 5th century BC, when the Athenians learned to prospect, treat, and refine the ore.

Fortuitously, the composition of the earth below the mines rendered drainage unnecessary, an important provision given that ancient mine drainage techniques did not allow for excavation below the level of subsoil waters.

The passageways and steps of Greek mines were dug out with the same concern for proportion and harmony found in their temples. The miner, armed with his pick and iron hammer and hunched over in two, labored to extract lead ore. The Laurium mines were worked by a large slave population, originating for the most part from Black Sea regions such as Thrace and Paphlagonia.

Weapons, armor tools, and a variety of other goods were created with these metals. The state collected a duty on their cargo. By the end of the 5th century, the tax had been raised to 33 talents Andocides , I, These duties were never protectionist , but were merely intended to raise money for the public treasury.

The growth of trade in Greece led to the development of financial techniques. Most merchants, lacking sufficient cash assets , resorted to borrowing to finance all or part of their expeditions.

The terms of the contract were always laid out in writing, differing from loans between friends eranoi. The lender bore all the risks of the journey, in exchange for which the borrower committed his cargo and his entire fleet, which were precautionarily seized upon their arrival at the port of Piraeus.

Trade in ancient Greece was free: In Athens, following the first meeting of the new Prytaneis , trade regulations were reviewed, with a specialized committee overseeing the trade in wheat, flour, and bread. The number of shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean Sea provides valuable evidence of the development of trade in the ancient world. Only two shipwrecks were found that dated from the 8th century BC. However, archeologists have found forty-six shipwrecks dated from the 4th century BC, which would appear to indicate that there occurred a very large increase in the volume of trade between these centuries.

Considering that the average ship tonnage also increased in the same period, the total volume of trade increased probably by a factor of Greece's main exports were olive oil, wine , pottery , and metalwork. Imports included grains and pork from Sicily , Arabia, Egypt, Carthage.

Grouped into guilds , they sold fish, olive oil, and vegetables. Women sold perfume or ribbons. Merchants were required to pay a fee for their space in the marketplace. They were viewed poorly by the general population, and Aristotle labeled their activities as: Parallel to the "professional" merchants were those who sold the surplus of their household production such as vegetables, olive oil, or bread.

This was the case for many of the small-scale farmers of Attica. Among townsfolk, this task often fell to the women. Aristophanes , The Acharnians , v. Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. Large fortunes were also subject to liturgies which was the support of public works.

Liturgies could consist of, for instance, the maintenance of a trireme , a chorus during a theatre festival, or a gymnasium. In some cases, the prestige of the undertaking could attract volunteers analogous in modern terminology to endowment, sponsorship, or donation.

Such was the case for the choragus , who organized and financed choruses for a drama festival. In other instances, like the burden of outfitting and commanding a trireme, the liturgy functioned more like a mandatory donation what we would today call a one-time tax. In some cities, like Miletus and Teos , heavy taxation was imposed on citizens.

On the other hand, indirect taxes were quite important. Taxes were levied on houses, slaves, herds and flocks, wines, and hay, among other things. However, this was not true of all cities. Thasos ' gold mines and Athens' taxes on business allowed them to eliminate these indirect taxes. Dependent groups such as the Penestae of Thessaly and the Helots of Sparta were taxed by the city-states to which they were subject. Coinage probably began in Lydia around BC, and circulated in the cities of Asia Minor under its control.

The technique of minting coins arrived in mainland Greece around BC, beginning with coastal trading cities like Aegina and Athens. Their use spread, and the city-states quickly secured a monopoly on their creation. The very first coins were made from electrum an alloy of gold and silver , followed by pure silver, the most commonly found valuable metal in the region.

The mines of the Pangaeon hills allowed the cities of Thrace and Macedon to mint a large quantity of coins. Laurium's silver mines provided the raw materials for the "Athenian owls", the most famous coins of the ancient Greek world. Less-valuable bronze coins appeared at the end of the 5th century. Coins played several roles in the Greek world.

They provided a medium of exchange , mostly used by city-states to hire mercenaries and compensate citizens. They were also a source of revenue as foreigners had to change their money into the local currency at an exchange rate favorable to the State. They served as a mobile form of metal resources, which explains discoveries of Athenian coins with high levels of silver at great distances from their home city.

Finally, the minting of coins lent an air of undeniable prestige to any Greek city or city state. The shopping centers in Ancient Greece were called agoras. The literal meaning of the word is "gathering place" or "assembly". The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city.

The Ancient Agora of Athens was the best-known example.