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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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male values developed that shaped the economy in unique ways.
Thus, despite over 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male 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 present 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 ificant 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. Most 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 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 concerned 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male be careful to 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 evidence 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 s for public building projects and leases of public lands or mines.
In addition, religious sanctuaries frequently inscribed s of monies and other assets, such as produce, land, and buildings, under their control. Although s 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 institutions 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. Single independant Greece female 4 black male vase types indicate the goods they contained, such as olive oil, wine, or grain.
The distribution of finds of ancient pottery can, therefore, tell 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 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 of 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male, 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male 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 set 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 market 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. At 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male to the Weber-Hasebroek-Polanyi line of analysis and 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male 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 help 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 Single independant Greece female 4 black male centers.
Their contribution to the economy was only to Single independant Greece female 4 black male 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 make 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, banking, 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 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 of particular sectors of the ancient Greek economy at specific times and places. Both approaches are useful and not necessarily mutually exclusive. Archaeological evidence and literary references from such works as the epic poems of Homer the Iliad and the Odysseythe Works and Days of Hesiod, and the works of the lyric poets attest to an economy that was generally small in scale and centered on household production and consumption.
The fundamental political unit, the polis or independent city-state, appears at this time as do non-monarchal governments allowing for at least some degree of political participation among a broad swath of citizens. Despite the fact that much of the Greek mainland is mountainous and the rivers generally small, there was enough fertile land and winter rainfall so that agriculture could for the bulk of economic production, as it would in all civilizations before the modern industrial era. But unlike the large kingdoms of the Near East, Greece had a free-enterprise economy and most land was privately owned.
Agriculture was carried out primarily on small family farms, though the Homeric epics indicate that there were also some larger estates controlled by the elite and worked with the help of free landless thetes whose labor would be needed especially at harvest time. Slaves existed, but not in such large s as to make the economy and society dependent on them. As the populations of cities were fairly small, crafts and manufacturing were largely carried out within households for internal consumption.
Both literary s and material remains, however, indicate that there was a certain amount of specialization. Artisans are referred to in the Homeric epics and the level of craftsmanship seen on items, such as metal work and painted pottery, was not likely to have been accomplished by non-specialists. Nevertheless, without large-scale manufacturing, safety from brigands on land and pirates at sea, and a monetary system employing coinage until late in the sixth centurymarkets were necessarily small, devoted to local products, and certainly not interconnected into a price-setting Single independant Greece female 4 black male economy.
Trade was limited mostly to local exchanges between the countryside and the urban center of city-states. Farmers might load up their surplus goods on a small ship to sell them in a neighboring Single independant Greece female 4 black male, as Hesiod attests, but long-distance sea-borne trade was devoted almost exclusively to luxury items, such as precious metals, jewelry, and finely-painted pottery.
Moreover, gift exchanges in accordance with social traditions were as prominent if not more so than impersonal exchanges for profit. In general, those who engaged in banausic occupations on more than a part-time basis and sought profit from such activities were looked down on and did not hold positions of prestige in society or government. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the scale of the Greek economy grew during the Archaic period and if not per capita, at least in proportion to the clear growth in population.
Population increases and the desire for more land were the primary impetuses for a colonizing movement that established Greek poleis throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions during this period. These new city-states put more land under cultivation, thereby providing the agriculture necessary to sustain the growing population. Moreover, archaeological evidence for the dispersal of Greek products particularly pottery over a wide area indicate that trade and manufacturing had also expanded greatly since the Dark Age.
It is probably no coincidence that the end of the Archaic period witnessed for the first time a divergence between the des of merchant vessels and warships, a distinction that would become permanent. Also, after the invention of coinage in Asia Minor in the early sixth century B. The aforementioned economic trends are traced in an important recent book by David Tandy, who argues that they had a fundamental impact on the development of the social and political organization and values of the Archaic polis. During the Classical period of ancient Greek history B.
Evidence concerning the economy also becomes more abundant and informative. Thus, a more detailed description of the Single independant Greece female 4 black male during the Classical period is possible and more attention to the distinctions between its various sectors is also desirable. In light of the cautionary statements made earlier in this article about overgeneralization, it is important to note that great variation existed among the regions and city-states of the ancient Greek world, especially during the Classical period.
Athens and Sparta are famous examples of two almost polar opposites in their social and political organizations and this is no Single independant Greece female 4 black male true with regard to their economic institutions. Given, however, the fact that Athens is the best documented and most studied place in ancient Greek history, the various sectors of the ancient Greek economy during the Classical period will be discussed primarily as they existed in Athens, despite the fact that it was in many ways exceptional.
ificant variations from the Athenian example will be noted, however, as will some recent trends in scholarship. It is first necessary to distinguish between the public and private sectors of the economy.Single independant Greece female 4 black male
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