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. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2012.
The main participants in Greek commerce were the class of traders known asemporoi(ἕ). The state collected adutyon their cargo. AtPiraeus(the mainportof Athens), this tax was set initially at 1%, then at 2%. By the end of the 5th century, the tax had been raised to 33talentsAndocides, I, 133-134). In 413, Athens ended the collection oftributefrom theDelian Leagueand imposed a 5% duty on all the ports of her empire (Thucydides, VII, 28, 4) in the hope (unrealized) of increasing revenues. These duties were neverprotectionist, but were merely intended to raise money for the public treasury.
. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2009.
, edited by Elio Lo Cascio and Dominic Rathbone, 37-43. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 2000.
Greeces main exports were olive oil,winepottery, andmetalwork. Imports includedgrainsandporkfromSicilyArabiaEgyptAncient CarthageBosporan Kingdom.
The potters 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 theBronze Age; thepotters wheelis a very ancient invention. The ancient Greeks did not add any innovations to these processes.
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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 30.
The growth of trade in Greece led to the development offinancialtechniques. Most merchants, lacking sufficient cashassets, resorted to borrowing to finance all or part of their expeditions. A typical loan for a large venture in 4th century BC Athens, was generally a large sum of cash (usually less than 2,000 drachmas), lent for a short time (the length of the voyage, a matter of several weeks or months), at a high rate ofinterest(often 12% but reaching levels as high as 100%). 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 ofPiraeus.
Donlan, Walter. The Homeric economy. In
Much of the craftsmanship of ancient Greece was part of thedomestic sphere. However, the situation gradually changed between the 8th and 4th centuries BC, with the increased commercialization of the Greek economy. Thus,weavingandbaking, activities so important to the Westernlate medievaleconomy, were done only by women before the 6th century BC. After the growth of commerce,slavesstarted to be used widely in workshops. Only finedyedtissues, like those made withTyrian purple, were created in workshops. On the other hand,working with metalleatherwood, orclaywas a specialized activity that was looked down upon by most Greeks.
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While peasants and artisans often sold their own wares, there were also retail merchants known askploi(ά). Grouped intoguilds, they sold fish, olive oil, and vegetables. Women soldperfumeorribbons. Merchants were required to pay a fee for their space in the marketplace. They were viewed poorly by the general population, andAristotlelabeled their activities as: a kind of exchange which is justly censured, for it is unnatural, and a mode by which men gain from one another.
The shopping centers in Ancient Greece were calledagoras. 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. TheAncient Agora of Athenswas the best-known example. Early in Greek history (18th century8th century BC), free-born citizens would gather in the agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Every city had its own agora where merchants could sell their products. There waslinenfromEgyptIvoryfromAfricaSpicesfromSyria, and more. Prices were rarely fixed, so bargaining was a common practice.
Coinage probably began inLydiaaround 600 BC, and circulated in the cities ofAsia Minorunder its control.Earlyelectrumcoins have been found at theTemple of DianaatEphesus. The technique ofminting coinsarrived in mainland Greece around 550 BC, beginning with coastal trading cities likeAeginaand Athens. Their use spread, and thecity-statesquickly secured a monopoly on their creation. The very first coins were made fromelectrum(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 ofThraceandMacedonto mint a large quantity of coins. Lauriums silver mines provided the raw materials for the Athenian owls, the most famous coins of the ancient Greek world. Less-valuablebronzecoins appeared at the end of the 5th century.
Theeconomy of ancient Greecewas defined largely by the regions dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality ofGreecesoil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greeces paramount location, as its position in theMediterraneangave its provinces control over some of Egypts most crucial seaports and trade routes. Beginning in the 6th century BC, tradecraftsmanshipandcommerce, principallymaritime, became pivotal aspects of Greek economic output.
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The basic workshop was often family-operated.Lysiasshieldmanufacture employed 120 slaves;Demosthenesfather, a maker ofswords, used 32. After the death ofPericlesin 429 BC, a new class emerged: that of the wealthy owners and managers of workshops. Examples includeCleonandAnytus, notedtanneryowners, andKleophon, whose factory producedlyres.
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The Greeks would also have animals like cows, goats and chickens.
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Morris, Ian. The Athenian economy twenty years after
Trade in ancient Greece was free: the state controlled only the supply of grain. In Athens, following the first meeting of the newPrytaneis, trade regulations were reviewed, with a specialized committee overseeing the trade in wheat, flour, and bread.
Men weighing merchandise, side B of an Attic black-figure amphora
Deposits of metaloreare common in Greece. Of these, the best known are thesilvermines ofLaurium. 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 theirtemples. The work was extremely difficult, due to the tunnels depththey were sometimes more than 100 metres (110yd) deep. The miner, armed with hispickandand hunched over in two, labored to extractlead ore. The Laurium mines were worked by a large slave population, originating for the most part fromBlack Searegions such asThraceandPaphlagonia. Weapons, armor tools, and a variety of other goods were created with these metals.
The creation of artistically decorated vases in Greece had strong foreign influences. For instance, the famedblack-figure styleofCorinthianpotters 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.
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 ofAttica. Among townsfolk, this task often fell to the women. for the prfect For instance,Euripidesmother soldchervilfrom her garden (cf.Aristophanes,The Acharnians, v. 477-478).
In the ancient era, most land was held by thearistocracy. During the7th centuryBC, demographic expansion and the distribution ofsuccessionscreated tensions between these landowners and the peasants. InAthens, this was changed bySolons reforms, which eliminateddebt bondageand protected the peasant class. Nonetheless, a Greek aristocrats domains remained small compared with theRomanlatifundia.
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Rothbard, Murray (2006).It all began, as usual, with the Greeks.
. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007.
The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth In the City-States
. 2d ed. Sather Classical Lectures 48. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985.
Greek soil has been likened to stinginess or tightness (Ancient Greek:stenokhôra,ί) which helps explainGreek colonialismand the importance of thecleruchiesofAsia Minorin controlling the supply ofwheat. Theolive treeand grapevine were complemented by the cultivation ofherbsvegetables, and oil-producing plants.Husbandrywas badly developed due to a lack of available land.Sheepandgoatswere the most common types of livestock. Woods were heavily exploited, first for domestic use and eventually to buildtriremesBeeswere kept to producehoney, the only source ofsugarknown to the ancient Greeks.
On the other hand, indirect taxes were quite important. Taxes were levied on houses, slaves, herds and flocks, wines, and hay, among other things. The right to collect many of these taxes was often transferred topublicans, ortelônai(ῶ). However, this was not true of all cities.and Athens taxes on business allowed them to eliminate these indirect taxes. Dependent groups such as thePenestaeofThessalyand theHelotsofSpartawere taxed by the city-states to which they were subject.
. Expanded and updated English edition. Translated by Steven Rendall. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.
. Routledge, 2004.ISBN0-415-31555-7. p. 17.
, edited by Ian Morris and Barry B. Powell, 649-67. New York: E.J. Brill, 1997.
Since it was so labor-intensive, up to 80% of the Greek population were employed in the agricultural industry. Agricultural work followed the rhythm of the seasons: harvestingolivesand trimminggrapevinesat the beginning ofautumnand the end ofwinter; setting asidefallowland in the spring; harvestingcerealsin thesummer; cutting wood, sowing seeds, and harvesting grapes in autumn.
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Pottery in ancient Greece was most often the work of slaves. Many of the potters of Athens assembled between theagoraand the Dipylon, in theKerameikon. They most often operated as small workshops, consisting of a master, several paid artisans, and slaves.
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The economy of the Greek cities: From the Archaic period to the early Roman Empire
Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. Theeisphor(ἰά) was a tax on the wealth of the very rich, but it was levied only when needed usually in times of war. Large fortunes were also subject toliturgieswhich was the support of public works. Liturgies could consist of, for instance, the maintenance of atrireme, achorusduring atheatrefestival, or agymnasium. 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 thechoragus, 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, likeMiletusandTeos, heavy taxation was imposed on citizens.
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.However, economistMurray Rothbardnotes thatancient Greek philosopherswere concerned with questions that would today fall under the discipline of economic theory.
Coins played several roles in the Greek world. They provided amedium of exchange, mostly used by city-states to hiremercenariesand compensate citizens. They were also a source of revenue as foreigners had to change their money into the local currency at anexchange ratefavorable 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.
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 onedrachmaper day, no matter what craft they practiced. The workday generally began atsunriseand ended in the afternoon.
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