Approaches to the Economic History of the Ancient Greek World

History 103A.002

Fall 2008
Instructor (text): 
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Wed 2-4
  • Note new room.
Class will meet in 210 Dwinelle until 8/27. Effective 9/3, the class will move to 2303 Dwinelle.

How did people survive in ancient Greece? How did they flourish, materially? What role did the Mediterranean Sea play in their strategies of production, distribution, and exchange? How did the emergence of state power in the Archaic period, and its gradual strengthening over the course of the Classical period, affect the economic practices of the Greeks? In this seminar we shall approach these questions by studying primary source material, and we shall also consider the ways in which modern historians have attempted to answer them. Archaeological and epigraphical discoveries are constantly changing our picture of the ancient world, but in addition the study of the ancient economy is currently being transformed by the application of new methods, so it is a particularly interesting time to approach the topic.

We shall consider the ancient evidence for practices as well as mentalities and ideologies relating to the following: agriculture; slavery; the invention of coinage and the monetization of the economy; maritime trade (including the special case of the grain trade); mining; pastoralism; market regulations; taxation practices; and consumption. In the process we shall engage with the often-polarizing question of the nature of the Greek economy: was it very much like the economy of the pre-industrial, early modern world, or was it distinctly different, so deeply embedded in Greek social norms and practices as to be incomparable to the practices of other times and places?

Weekly discussions will be centered around major scholarly approaches to the Greek economy and around primary sources in the form of literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and archaeological evidence. No knowledge of Greek is expected, but some knowledge of Greek history will be seriously advantageous. Students will write two short papers and one longer (15pp) paper at the end of the semester, which may take the form of a well-developed prospectus for the 101.