Greece Economic Conditions Part II
The circulation of noble metals, mainly coming from the gold and silver mines of Sifno, from the gold mines of Thasos and the Thracian coast, and, especially, from the gold mines of the territory of Abydos and from the golden sands of the waterways of Lydia, remained until the century. V very limited, and was more restricted by the hoarding, due to the enormous votive gifts that accumulated over the temples. Therefore the exchange value of the noble metals must have been very high at this time. At the time of Solon a sheep cost a drama, as much as a bushel of barley, a bullock 5 drama; 100 and 500 dramas were the respective prizes of the winners of the Isthmian and Olympic games, and 500 dramas the annual income with which they enrolled in the class of the largest rustic owners. With the monetary economy the factor of interest entered the economic life of Greece, which in the economy in nature had been very limited, and for the most part optional, and which now instead,
Despite the greater industrial and commercial development, agriculture remained in first place in the economic life of Greece: considerable technical progress was made, ensured, against the scarcity of rains in the summer, artificial irrigation. Apart from some large estates in Thessaly and Macedonia, land ownership appears to be very divided, as can be seen from the censuses of the Solonian classes which presuppose, according to Beloch’s calculations, properties ranging from ten to not much more than 40 hectares, and from size of the lot of a Spartan citizen, estimated at about fifteen hectares.
The large owners had their funds cultivated either by day laborers or by settlers participating in the harvest, but in some countries serfdom developed, by conquest or oppression (the Spartan Helots, the Penesti of Thessaly, the Cillirî of Syracuse).
In the most advanced countries, people already suffered from a demographic surplus with respect to the available resources, and, as ownership was divided up every day more because of the inheritances, poverty widened there and with it the need for loans, with a guarantee from the fund and from the person himself. debtor. And here the fields of the pillars attesting the mortgages are covered; many debtors to be driven out of their homes and small farms and sometimes reduced to slavery, and the class of small owners, powerless to defend themselves from the oppression of the great, threatened by overwhelming ruin, arrested or deferred only by the formation of strong working classes, who allied themselves with small properties against the usurpations of the aristocracy.
Finances. – Already in Homeric times one of the very limited tasks of the state had figured that of ensuring the few means necessary for the very limited expenses incumbent on the community. The βασιλεύς had his possessions of the crown, and he was frequently offered gifts by his subjects, on whom the obligatory participation in the preparation of public feasts with massacres and banquets already weighed in some cases. Therefore not even in that age could be lacking officials responsible for the collection of contributions, and among the oldest of them we must include the masters or mast ẽ res and the kōlakrétai.
During the period of economic and political renewal, which embraces part of the eighth and the whole of the seventh century BC. C., due, as we have seen, to the foundation of the colonies, the development of navigation and trade, the introduction and diffusion of money, the tasks and therefore the needs of the state were continually increasing, giving rise to a parallel development of judiciary, jurisdiction, land and sea military organization, public works, worship; but until the magistrates were paid, and the costs of the armament weighed on the individual citizens, the needs, which the state had to satisfy directly with its own means, remained essentially limited, as can be deduced from the little we know about the financial organization of Athens for the time of Solon itself, k ō lakrétai, were reduced to judicial powers, to fines, to the proceeds from the sale of the victims’ skins, and to the contributions withdrawn by the naucrari on the components of the twelve naucraria, i.e. the districts into which the primitive four tribes were divided, to provide, first to the navy, but also for other administrative purposes. From their coffers, the colacreti drew funds for naval expenses, embassies, public sacrifices and celebrations.
With the tyrants, the financial organization had further development and complication, due to the intense need they felt for money for the expenses of the court, for their grandiose constructions, for gifts at the temples and above all for the pay of their bodyguard. and their mercenary militias. They could not help but burden their subjects with regular direct and indirect taxes, as did the Cypselids, who introduced taxes on the markets and duties in the ports, and Pisistratus, who in Attica collected 5% of the products of the soil. This more onerous and complicated financial organization was inherited by the regimes that followed the tyranny, and further developed, especially in the democratic ones.