The Ancient Economy (Sather Classical Lectures)

The Ancient Economy (Sather Classical Lectures)

M. I. Finley

Language: English

Pages: 298

ISBN: 0520219465

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Technical progress, economic growth, productivity, even efficiency have not been significant goals since the beginning of time," declares M. I. Finley in his classic work. The states of the ancient Mediterranean world had no recognizable real-property market, never fought a commercially inspired war, witnessed no drive to capital formation, and assigned the management of many substantial enterprises to slaves and ex-slaves. In short, to study the economies of the ancient world, one must begin by discarding many premises that seemed self-evident before Finley showed that they were useless or misleading. Available again, with a new foreword by Ian Morris, these sagacious, fertile, and occasionally combative essays are just as electrifying today as when Finley first wrote them.

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and children, were 'enslaved' to the rich"- but their successful struggle was never looked upon, either by themselves or by our ancient authorities on the subject, as a slave revolt. They were citizens reclaiming their rightful place in their own community-for themselves alone, not for the few genuine chattel slaves who had been brought from outside into Athens and Rome at that time. 9 Were these citizen-bondsmen, before their liberation, free men or not? I find this a meaningless question and

could march long distances along the roads; they could neither be fed nor clothed nor armed from long distances by those routes. Water transport, in short, and especially sea transport, created radical new possibilities for the ancient town. In the first place, imports of food and other bulk commodities permitted a substantial increase in the size of the population, no longer held down by the limiting factor of local agricultural production, and an improvement in the quality of life, through a

therefore resort to models and indicators again. In what is still a widely read reply to the Weber-Hasebroek school, Gomme announced that ''the Greeks were well aware that imports and exports must in the long run, somehow, balance". 11 He cited no authority, and the few which are available fall squarely into Schumpeter's class of "prescientific statements" not made to bear any "superstructure". Plutarch's banal observation (Solon 22.1) that the Athenian lawgiver encouraged the crafts because he

Roman army, specifically of its slow professionalization. Traditionally, military service in the city-states was an obligation of the wealthier sector of the citizenry, those who could afford the requisite heavy armour; and though the state tried to pay them enough for their maintenance while they were on active duty, it could not always do so. 60 They were not relieved of their obligations by non-payment, and they expected no material rewards for their services afterwards, only glory. Athens and

Salvioli, Capitalisme pp. 25o-3; E. M. Schtajerman, Die Krise der Sklavenhalterordnung im Westen des r6mischen Reiches, transl. from the Russian by W. Seyfarth (Berlin 1g64) pp. 34-35, 6g and elsewhere. 65. Of the large and growing body ofliterature, it is enough to mention the articles printed in R. W. Fogel and S. L. Engerman, ed., The Reinterpretation of American Economic History (New York 1971) pt. 7, with the critique by N. G. Butlin, Ante-bellum Slavery-A Critique of a Debate (Australian

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