Before acceptance into the Eurozone in 2001, Greece’s economy was plagued by several problems. particularly in farming and artisan families. Yet for all its interference in the economy, the Ptolemaic government did not assemble a state merchant fleet and instead contracted with private traders to transport grain to and from public granaries. It is generally agreed that at the very least, bankers, who were metics as a rule (note Pasion and Phormion above), performed various functions from money-changing to securing deposits in cash and other assets. production methods. Despite their disdain for certain types of work and their dependence on slave labor, most Greeks had to work hard to make a living. particularly as trade rose and cities grew. Greece has a capitalist economy with a public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP about two-thirds that of the leading euro-zone economies. Xenophon, an Athenian writer from the fourth century, noted that Athens could always be assured of traders bringing their goods into Athens, because traders knew they could always get a valuable trade commodity, namely silver in the form of Athenian coinage, in exchange. Takes the new cultural history approach to analyzing the poetry of Pindar and how it represents money within the social and political value system of ancient Greece. London: Bristol Classical Press, 1993. For example, Finley drew too sharp a distinction between the interests of non-citizen (and, therefore, non-landowning) traders and the landed citizens who dominated Athenian government. This was so in part because of the Greek socio-political emphasis on self-sufficiency (autarkeia), but 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. There were also, however, distinctive features in the Greek pattern. In the agora one could find law courts, offices for public officials, and coin mints as well as shrines and temples. 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. Briefly stated, the debate began in the late nineteenth century and revolved around the issue of whether the economy was “primitive” or “modern.” These were a poor choice of terms with which to conceptualize the ancient Greek economy and are to a great extent responsible for the intractability of the debate. For example, Athens employed a publicly owned slave to check coins and guard against counterfeiters. A sourcebook of documents translated into English. Metal crafts were highly specialized. deliberately cumbersome coinage discouraged commerce, while aristocratic estate-owners concentrated on directing a semi-slave population of farm In 1968 the well-preserved wreck of a merchant ship from c. 300 B.C. Morris, Ian. Isokrates, speeches (especially Trapezitikos and On the Peace). was found off the coast of Kyrenia in Cyprus. Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece. Adultery was tolerated for men, but was grounds for divorce in the To convert to olives and grapes, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.). Austin, M.M. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Note, this is not an argument that political economy or “institutions” play no role in the rise and decline of economies. Greek sanctuaries as artistic hubs. Comfort Level Easy. praised as a means of training the young in practical wisdom. These activities have left behind material remains and are described in various contexts scattered throughout the extant writings of the ancient Greeks. The question whether bankers lent out money deposited by others at interest, however, is the subject of some debate. somewhat less attention was paid to the improvement of manufacturing London: Duckworth. 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. 90, Issue. responsibility for family possessions was protected by law. 1 Portions of this article have or will appear in other forms in Engen, 1996, Engen, 2001, Engen, Forthcoming(a), and Engen, Forthcoming(b). Although there is evidence that Athens, for example, fixed the retail price of bread in proportion to the wholesale price of grain, there is no evidence that it fixed the price of the latter. Archaeological evidence is free of some of the representational complexities of the literary and epigraphic evidence. Peasants shared separate rooms. Travel back thousands of years to a time of great architects, philosophers, and mythical gods on this journey to Greece! Of course, the children of slaves would also be slaves. Even the activities of free women were directed toward their husbands' accordingly more complex, and inequalities widened in many ways. Two extended essays on household management and the means by which the state may obtain more revenues, respectively. Evidence from the Attic Orators indicates that during the Classical period overseas trade developed into a specialized and important sector of the economy. alone continued the full germ of the child. 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 polis, was the social ideal. Both Leslie Kurke and Sitta von Reden have argued that the advent of a monetized economy employing coinage need not have undermined traditional values or led to a disembedding of the economy. The Finley model is probably right in general to hold that the essentially consumptive nature of the economy in the traditional Greek homelands changed little during this time. As the populations of cities were fairly small, crafts and manufacturing were largely carried out within households for internal consumption. The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region's dependence on imported goods. Sparta, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1973. In addition to taxes, Athens obtained revenue from leases of publicly owned lands and mines. Moreover, inscriptions from the religious sanctuary of Delphi from the Hellenistic period show that slaves almost always had to compensate their owners for their freedom, either in the form of cash or some other valuable commodity, like their own children, who would also be slaves of the master and eventually replace their aging parents with young labor. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. Ancient Greeks typically used bronze and iron tools and weapons. Hence, if one could afford a slave to do one’s work, then one bought a slave. Sallares, R. The Ecology of the Ancient Greek World. For the most part in ancient Greece, prices were set in accordance with local conditions, personal relationships, and haggling. Palace a Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Ancient Greece, an introduction. Wage earning was very much looked down upon, since working for another person was thought of as an impingement on freedom and akin to slavery. Primary crops were grains, mostly barley but also some wheat, which were usually sown on a two-year fallowing cycle. conservatives who blasted change in the name of traditional austerity. 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. Interestingly, conditions for women improved somewhat in the Hellenistic Highlights include Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi. These had to be harvested, mashed into a jelly, and then boiled to extract the dye. With the exception of Sparta and a few other city-states, women in ancient Greece, free citizens or otherwise, could not control land. The trends of the Archaic period in Greece continued into the Classical period, about 500-400 BC, with both trade and fighting big contributors to the classical Greek economy.Greek mercenary soldiers fought for the Egyptians, who were trying to get free of the Persians, and they also fought on the other side, for the Persians. The availability of cheap slaves was a major factor in Greek attitudes toward labor and may also explain why there were no labor unions in Greece. The basis of the Attic standard was the silver tetradrachm of 17.2 grams, which retained the design of the head of Athena on the obverse and her symbolic owl on the reverse throughout the Classical period. Collections of Primary Sources: Documentary, Epigraphic, and Material. fields for work. The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII. In fact, it is fair to say, as Finley did, that ancient Greece was a “slave dependent society.” There were so many slaves; they were so essential to the economy; and they became so thoroughly embedded into the every day life and values of the society that without slavery, ancient Greek civilization could not have existed in the manner it did. But unlike the large kingdoms of the Near East, Greece had a free-enterprise economy and most land was privately owned. One famous example is helotry, known principally from the city-state of Sparta. Finley’s model has had a great impact on those who study the ancient Greek economy and is still widely accepted today.
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