Greece Economic Conditions Part I

In the Mycenaean period the royal residences covered only a few hectares of land, and the population lived in open villages, dedicated to agriculture and pastoralism. The economic conditions were therefore simple, although there are indications of relatively extensive traffic, and only when, at the end of the Minoan period, the Greeks permanently occupied the Aegean islands and the western coasts of Asia Minor, transforming themselves into a predominantly seafaring people, conditions, like all other ways of their living, began to change. First of all, city life increased, stimulated by the example of the more advanced conditions with which the Greeks had come into contact in the colonization territories, and, at the same time, professional and commercial activities had a notable boost. In fact, in the second half of the second millennium a. C. the Greeks were the main intermediaries of trade between Europe, the Nile valley and the Syriac coast, but at the end of that millennium, and at the beginning of the next one, having gained a great momentum, while the power of the Egypt, the cities of the Phoenician coast, especially Sidon and Tire, and flourishing industries having developed there. such as those of purple, metalwork, glassworks, etc., the Phoenicians opened an outlet for their products in the Aegean, and this sea was dominated by their trade, of which we have the known reflections in the Odyssey. The diffusion of Phoenician products in the Greek world stimulated, in turn, imitation in this; there was the introduction in the Aegean of the use of purple dye, and, above all, the orientalizing style of industrial Greek art. However, in the first centuries of the first millennium a. C. Greece remained an essentially agricultural country, in which land ownership was concentrated in the hands of the aristocratic families, who eventually replaced the monarchical power.

The radical transformation of the Greek economy took place only when colonization pushed with great momentum on the coasts of the Ionian, Thrace and Propontis. Then the needs of the new colonies, to which local conditions were unequal, it was convenient to provide with exports from the mother country, and in this industry developed on the basis of the raw materials, indeed not numerous, at its disposal: clay deposits, wool from the flocks and above all copper minerals from Euboea, iron from Laconia, the Cyclades and Euboea itself. Metalworking flourished in Chalcis, Corinth and the neighboring cities of Sicyon, Argos, Aegina, Athens, textile industries in Megara, ceramics in Corinth and Athens. But the main center of manufacturing activity was in Ionia, especially in Miletus for weaving, dyeing and the production of woolen fabrics; in Chios and Samos for metallurgy. In this way the products of the Greek industry drove almost all the Phoenician and oriental products from the market (apart from a few: ointments, glassware, carpets, etc.), and there was a great need for labor for the many needs, especially of the colonies. This need was met by means of slaves, who were used in considerable numbers and of both sexes, starting as early as the century. Street. C., especially in Miletus, in Chios, in Corinth, and, a little later, in Athens. Thanks to the use of servile labor, large companies, whose existence can be demonstrated almost with certainty as far as the ceramic industry is concerned, became increasingly popular alongside small ones. but which can also be assumed for the others. And the industrial classes, growing in power, aspired to political influence, and from them, in the cities where they were formed, the revolutions that swept away the aristocracies originated.

Maritime traffic developed hand in hand with industries, as can be seen from the close commercial relations of Greece with Egypt, where the well-known Greek colony arose in Naucrati; with Phenicia and with the West, in which the Greeks reached the silver-bearing country of Tartessus, and from Massalia they dominated trade with Gaul and with the north-east of Spain, winning in the Tyrrhenian at the end of the century. Street. C., the Phoenician competition. The main centers of trade were almost the same as those of the industries: the cities of Ionia, from which the traffic with the Propontis and Pontus (especially Miletus and Phocaea, which were also in close relations with the former with Italy, branched off) second with the Adriatic, with Tartessos and with the Celtic country); and, in the mother country, Chalcis and Corinth.

However, it is not necessary to form part of the commercial and industrial development of Greece in the century. There is an exaggerated idea: overall it was still in a modest phase, which corresponds to the fact that the population, even in the major centers, continued to be very limited. Beloch estimates it around 25,000 residents for Corinth and Athens, 30,000 for Miletus and the two main colonies of the West, Sybaris and Crotone. Note that recent studies tend to further reduce the proportions of the Greek economy in this period; but, in any case, an expression and incentive of the economic transformation that took place in it was the use of money, whose introduction is ascribed to some of the cities of Ionia, Miletus or Phocaea, or of nearby Lydia, at the beginning of the century. VII, and that in less than a century it spread throughout the Greek world, greatly facilitating the needs of trade. But the coinage remained for a long time limited to Ionia and to the industrial and commercial cities of Euripo and the Saronic Gulf, and even in the most economically advanced countries the monetary economy only slowly replaced that in kind, as can be inferred from the censuses of the Solonian classes expressed in wheat medimni, and by the levy in kind of the land tax in Athens at the time of the Pisistratids.

Greece Economic Conditions 1

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