THE ECONOMIC BACKGROUND OF THE
INTRODUCTION: THE NATURE OF THE EVIDENCE
WE have now traced the story of the ancient world down to the repulse of the Persian army and navy by the Greeks united under Spartan leadership. That victory inaugurated a new era, with which it is the main purpose of this volume to deal. The success of what had appeared to many at the outset a forlorn venture inspired the Greeks of Hellas with a new sense of their superiority to the great ‘barbarian’ powers and a new confidence in their own future. The centre of gravity of the Greek world was shifted across the Aegean from its eastern shore, the cities of which, after being subdued in turn by the Empires of Lydia and of Persia, had suffered severely as the result of the Ionian Revolt and had been reluctantly compelled to fight for their Oriental overlords against their Hellenic kinsmen. But before we deal with the political, military and cultural history of the next eighty years, we shall do well to survey in outline the economic conditions and tendencies which were not merely the background of that history but also a most potent factor in determining it.
Down to the close of the sixth century the Greeks of Asia Minor and the adjacent islands had enjoyed, if not a monopoly, at least an unquestioned predominance in literature as well as in art, industry and commerce. But the collapse of the Ionian Revolt ushered in a period of material decay from which Ionia did not wholly recover until the Hellenistic age: Athens entered into the intellectual as well as the commercial inheritance of the Eastern Greeks, and the literature of the fifth century is largely the work of men who were Athenians either by birth or by residence. But literature did not concern itself primarily and explicitly with economic history or theory. The acute economic problems of the close of the seventh century and the opening years of the sixth had been in large measure solved by the wise and moderate legislation of Solon followed by the enlightened policy of the Peisistratidae. Thus during the first seventy years of the fifth century there seems to have been little distress in Attica, where the remarkable development of trade and industry, the exploitation of the silver mines and the growth of the Athenian Empire brought a rapid accession of wealth alike to individuals and to the community. But it is sickness rather than health which, both in the human body and in the body politic, provokes comment and stimulates reflection, and throughout the greater part of the fifth century the prosperity of Athens produced a sense rather of exuberant health than of misgiving and inquiry. The century was, in the economic sphere, one of deeds rather than of words, of active achievement rather than of historical record or philosophical analysis. Only during and after the Peloponnesian War, which brought ruin upon the agricultural population and financial exhaustion upon the state, did men begin to reflect upon the economic evils of the time and to seek some remedy for them. But though the literary evidence for economic conditions in our period consists mainly of scattered allusions in the works of historians, orators and poets, we have at least this compensation that the incidental character of the references in question lessens the probability of their having been selected or manipulated in the interest of some preconceived theory.
Fortunately the literary evidence can be supplemented by that of other kinds—epigraphical, archaeological and numismatic. Though sharing some of the characteristics of literary documents, inscriptions have certain peculiarities of their own, notably their objectivity and their detail: they preserve neither traditions nor judgments but facts, and they contain not approximations but precise, and usually authoritative, statements. Few fifth-century inscriptions of economic interest have survived save at Athens. For Sparta this is not surprising, for her citizens were debarred from trade and from the possession of gold and silver, her financial system was extremely rudimentary and her conduct of public affairs was characterized by an unparalleled secrecy. Elsewhere also aristocratic principle and practice discountenanced any public record of financial administration. The Athenians, on the other hand, regarded publicity as one of the distinguishing marks of democracy and demanded that the official acts of every magistrate should be subject to the scrutiny of his fellow-citizens. Hence many financial documents were consigned to the durable keeping of marble, and of these considerable fragments survive to give us materials which are of inestimable value for our present purpose.
Hardly less important is the archaeological and numismatic evidence. The almost indestructible nature of pottery, its widespread diffusion and the security with which the leading fabrics can be assigned to their periods and places of origin render it especially valuable for determining the extent and intensity of the commercial enterprise of certain states, while paintings upon vases provide detailed pictures of contemporary dress, social life and industrial activities. Coins also serve to throw light not only upon the artistic development and political relations of the states which issued them, but also upon weight standards, mintage-rights, monetary alliances, commercial relations and kindred subjects.
The population of the Greek states normally fell into three main classes—the civic, the free alien and the servile. To these must be added in some states (e.g. Sparta, Argos and Elis) a class of subjects (perioeci), who, while enjoying personal freedom and certain stipulated privileges, were nevertheless debarred from the status and rights of citizens. In Sparta, for which alone we have detailed evidence, the perioeci were distributed over the country in settlements varying in size from considerable towns to insignificant hamlets. They were liable to tribute and to military service, supplying to the Spartan army a large and increasing portion of its heavy infantry, but although subject to Spartan governors they seem to have enjoyed some measure of de facto freedom in communal affairs. Their land was, generally speaking, less fertile than that which the Spartans reserved for themselves; on the other hand, they had a monopoly of the industry and trade of Laconia and Messenia, due to the selfexclusion of the Spartans from these spheres, and appear in general to have been loyal and contented.
Of the political privileges of the citizens this is not the place to speak, but it must be borne in mind in considering their economic condition that, at least under democratic constitutions, they alone and directly determined the economic policy of their states and, it may be assumed, determined it primarily with a view to their own advantage.
In general, the citizen bodies of this period are marked by an exclusiveness which is the outcome partly of pride and partly of selfishness. In Sparta, where both motives operated with peculiar intensity, admission to civic status was almost unknown: Herodotus asserts that down to his time it had been granted to two men only, the Elean seer Teisamenus and his brother. The Spartan recognized no class of resident aliens (metics), and he sought to make the gulf between citizen and subject impassable by denying to the perioeci the right of intermarriage. The life of discomfort and apprehensiveness which he led was the price he paid. Theoretically, his position was secured by the toil of the serfs who tilled his holding; practically, however, Spartan history shows a progressive decline in the number of full citizens and a growing inequality in their economic situation. In most agricultural states the citizen body must have comprised the great majority of the population. Metics were probably everywhere debarred from the ownership of land, while slavery, though by no means unknown, was restricted within narrow limits. Pericles, as reported by Thucydides, describes the Peloponnesians as themselves engaged in cultivating the soil and the same might be said equally of the citizens of most of northern Greece.
In Athens the ownership of real property and the exercise of active political rights were confined to citizens, who also enjoyed a practical monopoly of one important and lucrative enterprise, silver-mining. But the development of industry and commerce led an increasing number of citizens to devote themselves to these activities, while at the same time it brought a large influx of aliens to swell the growing urban population. Even members of the aristocracy tended to migrate to Athens as the focus of political, intellectual and social life and to leave their lands to be managed by bailiffs. It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that the rural population became small or unimportant. The Attic peasantry, engaged in the cultivation of fields, vineyards or olivegroves, in the tending of cattle or the burning of charcoal, formed a numerous and sturdy stock, proud of its freedom from the monotonous and cramping work of the urban artisan. Thus Thucydides speaks of the men of Acharnae, a little country town on the slopes of Mount Aegaleos, as ‘being a large part of the state’ and as supplying to the Athenian army no fewer than 3000 heavy infantry. Yet it must be admitted that in the determination of public policy the urban population often exercised a preponderating influence. Every issue was decided by the citizens present in the Assembly when the vote was taken, and it was easier for those resident in Athens and the Piraeus than for those scattered over the countryside, many of them at a considerable distance from Athens, to attend meetings of the sovereign people. In the later years of the century this influence is mirrored in the increasing political prominence of representatives of the urban and industrial element—Eucrates the tow-merchant, Lysicles the sheep-dealer, Cleon the tanner, and the like.
For some time after the Persian Wars the Athenian attitude appears to have become more generous and comprehensive. But the exclusive temper of the citizens was stimulated by the material gain attendant on civic status. Not only was no regular process of naturalization opened to resident aliens, not only was citizenship granted with the utmost parsimony even to distinguished individuals but in 451 b.c. a measure was passed on the motion of Pericles rigidly restricting citizenship to those who were of civic parentage on both sides, while six years later those who wrongfully claimed a share in a generous gift of corn sent by an Egyptian prince for distribution among the citizens were sternly punished. It required the shock of the defeat at Aegospotami to awaken the Athenians to a realization of the fruits of so narrow a policy, but the grant of Athenian citizenship to all the Samians in 405 b.c. came too late to save the tottering fabric of the Empire.
Citizens by no means dominated the industrial and mercantile life of Athens and its port. None of the important business houses of which we learn were directed by citizens, and the ranks of the shopkeepers, artisans and labourers were largely recruited from metics, freedmen and slaves. Of the 71 contractors and workmen engaged on the Erechtheum in 409—8, only 20 were citizens, while 35 were metics and 16 slaves; in other words, of the men so engaged only 28 per cent., of the free men only 36 per cent., were citizens. Nor can it be claimed that their numerical inferiority was counterbalanced by the important or lucrative nature of the tasks they undertook. In face of such evidence it is hard to accept, at least for the fifth century, the view that servile labour drove free labour from the market and the citizen fell a victim to the competition of slaves. These did, it is true, monopolize certain employments—e.g. mining and domestic service—but into those no citizen would voluntarily have entered. Elsewhere it would seem that the competition which confronted the citizen was that of the metic, rather than of the slave. But it is incredible that, if this competition had been acutely felt, the citizens, in whose hands lay the absolute determination of the conditions of employment on public works, should not have safeguarded their own interests by securing for citizens priority of claim to employment, if not preferential treatment in regard to pay. Of neither privilege, however, is there any indication in our evidence. The fact is that the state was able to offer to citizens, and to them exclusively, abundant and varied means of making, or of adding to, their livelihood. Large numbers were drafted off to cleruchies or to colonies. The multiplication of officials, both within Attica and throughout the Empire, the large membership of the Council and the immense development of the law-courts secured the enjoyment of paid posts to a number of citizens which in normal times can hardly have fallen short of 7000. Even in time of peace considerable numbers of citizens were engaged in patrolling or garrisoning the Empire, and a period of war, while adversely affecting certain employments, automatically brought about a great increase in the demand for men to serve in the army and the navy.
The importance of the resident aliens, the metics, varied greatly from state to state. Sparta resolutely refused to countenance them and from time to time brought into operation the alien acts which expelled them from Spartan territory. In states which were almost wholly agricultural they were probably very few, but in those which devoted themselves to industry and commerce their numbers tended to multiply. Our evidence is fullest for Athens, where they seem to have been most numerous and most highly favoured. There is, indeed, a tradition preserved in Diodorus that Themistocles encouraged immigration into Attica by offering to the metics immunity from taxation, but this privilege, if granted at all, cannot have been of long duration. Nevertheless, the metics, alike Greeks and barbarians, increased rapidly, especially after the Persian Wars. They were, it is true, debarred from the exercise of active political rights and from the possession of real property, they were liable to military or naval service and to the payment of the aliens’ tax in addition to the ordinary taxes, and each of them must be sponsored by a citizen patron (prostates). Yet they enjoyed personal freedom, the protection of the law, liberty of worship and almost unlimited opportunities of engaging in the industrial and commercial activity of their adopted home. Thus the metics remained contented and often prosperous, and the Athenians had no occasion, even in their darkest hours, to suspect them of disaffection or treachery. The great majority of them lived in or near Athens or the Piraeus and gained their livelihood as labourers, artisans, manufacturers, or traders. Of the 71 men engaged on the Erechtheum no fewer than 35 were, as we have seen, metics, and there is reason to believe that their preponderance was at least equally marked in all branches of industry, in retail trade, in shipping, in commerce and in finance. Not only so, but in the spheres of art, science and literature the metics supplied Athens with many of her outstanding men—painters, sculptors, musicians, doctors, philosophers, poets and orators.
The servile class also existed in the Greek states in different forms and in varying degrees. In some it consisted of serfs, the descendants of an aboriginal, or at least of an early, population, reduced by a victorious band of invaders and bound to the soil under the terms of a pact which secured for them certain guarantees from their masters. The best known example is that of the Spartan Helots, but the Penestae of Thessaly, the Cyllyrii of Sicily, the Clarotae of Crete and the Mariandyni of Heraclea Pontica seem to have occupied a more or less analogous position. Such a body was recruited not by purchase but by natural propagation, was engaged mainly in tillage, and was the property not of individuals but of the community. Thus the Helots, whose labour assured a livelihood to the Spartiates and so enabled them to devote themselves exclusively to military and administrative duties, could neither be liberated nor killed by the individual citizens to whose service they were assigned. Emancipation, if granted at all, was the reward of distinguished conduct in war, in which large numbers of Helots served, usually as light-armed troops and attendants on the Spartan hoplites. The enormous preponderance of Helots over Spartiates, which became more marked and more disquieting with the diminution in the number of citizens, was the determining factor in Spartan policy throughout this period. Disciplinary supervision was ruthlessly exercised by the secret citizen police under the direction of the ephors, who, to secure the right of immediate intervention without any form of trial, kept the Helot body permanently under martial law. Nevertheless, the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of 2000 Helots, whose bravery had been recognized by the state as constituting a claim to emancipation, must not be regarded as indicative of normal Spartan policy, but of the extreme lengths to which the ephors could be driven by nervous apprehensiveness at the darkest hour of the Peloponnesian War
Entirely different was the position of slaves in industrial states such as Athens. A few of them belonged to the community and were employed in the police force or in the mint, as clerks, or as attendants on officials, or in other similar positions, sometimes of considerable importance and responsibility, as, for example, the custody of the state archives. Some at least of them received from the state their clothing and daily ‘ration allowance’ of three obols (half-drachma) or more, were allowed to live where they pleased, and differed little de facto from metics in their family and social relations.
The vast majority, however, of the slaves belonged to individual owners. They were, as a rule, bought in the market, for ‘home-born’ slaves were probably few in the fifth century, though the Delphian manumission records of later centuries show that then they constituted about one-fifth of the total number emancipated. The slave-market was recruited from captives taken in war, the victims of slave-raids, criminals condemned for certain offences and, perhaps, a few foundlings rescued from death by exposure. They were mostly barbarians, for there was a feeling, at least in the more enlightened states, against the enslavement of Greeks, and prisoners of war, if Hellenes, were usually ransomed at the generally recognized flat rate of 200 drachmae per head. Such scruples were, however, forgotten in the exasperation caused by the Peloponnesian War, as we may see from the fate of the Melians who capitulated in 416, and of the prisoners taken by the Syracusans after the Athenian debacle of 413. With regard to barbarians, on the other hand, no compunctions were felt, or at least none were yet voiced, and the sense of superiority resulting from their victories over the mighty empire of Persia led the Greeks as a whole to accept, as a self-evident dispensation of providence, the distinction of mankind into natural masters and natural slaves. The only slave household of which we have detailed knowledge, that of Cephisodorus, a metic resident in the Piraeus, consisted of 16 persons—10 males, five females and one whose sex is uncertain. Five of these came from Thrace, three from Caria, two each from Syria and Illyria, and one each from Colchis, Scythia, Lydia and Malta. They were sold by auction in 414, on account of their master’s actual or alleged implication in the outrage on the Hermae, and realized an average price of 169 drachmae per male and 132 per female: the most costly was a Syrian, for whom 301 drachmae were paid, the cheapest a Lydian woman, who fetched but 70.
Slaves were everywhere used for domestic service, assisting the mistress of the house in her tasks of baking, cooking, clothes-making, nursing, etc. The number of such household slaves in a moderate establishment varied from three to a dozen, but wealthy men occasionally had as many as fifty or even more. Greece did not, like the Italy of the late Republican period, employ masses of slaves in agriculture. In some states, such as Thessaly or Sparta, this was mainly or wholly in the hands of subjects or serfs; in others the free peasantry was almost sufficient, though some slaves were regularly employed on the larger estates and elsewhere casual slave labour may have been hired for harvesting or other special purposes. Industry, on the other hand, demanded the multiplication of slaves to increase production. The artist or artisan usually had one or more working under his direction and in close contact with him; these were regarded as apprentices rather than as machines, for the mechanical aspect of mass-production was minimized if not eliminated, and such anticipations as there were of the factory system were on a small scale and appear only towards the close of our period. The slave often engaged in the same tasks as his master and was permitted and expected to exercise his creative faculties: on the Erechtheum, for example, they work side by side with free men and are paid at the same rate. Only in mining and quarrying do we find slaves, and those usually of a low type, employed in large gangs, frequently under the supervision of slave foremen. The miner’s work was hard, the hours were long, the conditions unhealthy: as a result the slave’s life was normally short, for it was deemed unprofitable to prolong by considerateness and care the lives of men who could be replaced so easily and at so small a cost. Nicias is reported to have possessed a thousand slaves whom he hired out for this work, and to have made a profit of one obol per man per day, i.e. an annual revenue of some ten talents (60,000 drachmae).
Yet while the law at this time regarded the slave as mere property, protected only in the same spirit in which other property-rights were legally safeguarded, considerations of humanity, to which the Athenians were peculiarly susceptible, combined with those of enlightened self-interest to secure a marked amelioration of the lot of the domestic or industrial slave. He was not distinguished in dress from the citizen, he was allowed to attend certain acts of public or family worship, he was treated frequently with kindness and sometimes even with affection. The typical nurse or attendant of the early Attic drama affords a picture of which Greece need not be ashamed. Indeed, complaints were sometimes heard of the advantage taken by the slaves of the indulgence shown to them, especially at Athens, of the insolence of many and the luxury of some. In time the demands of public opinion and expediency led to the withdrawal from the master of his power to kill his slave or to subject him to prolonged cruelty; the right of sanctuary was recognized and the slave, if habitually ill-treated, might demand to be sold to a new master. Even the prospect of liberty was not denied to the slave. Occasionally this was granted simply as a reward of loyalty and good service; more often, however, the slave purchased his emancipation by the payment of a stipulated ransom out of the savings which it was customary to allow slaves to accumulate. Regarding the amount of this ransom we have no information from the fifth century, to which very few of the extant manumission-records belong, but the Delphian and other documents supply abundant evidence for a later period. The freedman whose liberty might be restricted by special conditions imposed at his emancipation, became to all intents and purposes a metic, save that he must take as his patron his former master, who also became the heir of the freedman in the event of his dying childless. Since the tendency was for the most loyal, frugal, capable and energetic members of the slave class to win their freedom, they naturally took a prominent share in the activities and enterprises of the metics which have been outlined above.
Any attempt to estimate numerically the population of the Greek world, or of any Greek state, in the fifth century b.c. is beset by almost insuperable difficulties. No census was taken and, although rolls were kept of citizens, of men liable to various grades of military service, and of resident aliens, these were for official use and were not published. Few figures therefore appear in our ancient authorities and those generally approximate rather than precise. Nor can we reach satisfactory results by computing the productivity of the soil of the several states, for our knowledge of the area under cultivation in antiquity, of the average yield and of the extent to which the homegrown supplies sufficed to meet the needs of the population is wholly inadequate. Thus we are usually forced to base our calculations upon the recorded numbers of those who were liable to, or were engaged in, military service. Trustworthy records of this kind are, however, but too few, nor is it safe to assume that the number of men subject to military service bore everywhere the same ratio to the total population.
For Athens our most valuable evidence is Pericles’ statement that at the outset of the Peloponnesian War Athens had 13,000 hoplites apart from those stationed in garrisons and the 16,000 who manned the fortifications ‘drawn from the oldest and the youngest and the metics who served as hoplites’: she had also 1200 cavalry, including 200 mounted archers, and 1600 bowmen. Since the metic hoplites numbered 3000, Pericles seems to have assigned 13,000 citizen hoplites to the field force and an equal number to home defence. If, as has sometimes been assumed, ‘the oldest and the youngest’ include only the ephebi of 1 8 and 19 and adults of 50—59 years old, this equality is obviously impossible and the figure 16,000 in Thucydides’ account of Pericles’ estimate must be drastically reduced, perhaps to 6000. This apparently simple expedient, however, raises serious difficulties, and it is perhaps better to accept Thucydides’ text as it stands and to assume that a considerable number of citizen hoplites of 20—49 years old were for physical reasons employed in home defence rather than in foreign service. If we reckon the garrison troops at 2500, this gives us 29,500 citizens of the three highest classes liable to military service or about 35—36,000 in all above 18 years old. For the fourth class, the thetes, we may allow 20,000 as a probable number and 25,000 as a maximum, while the metics may have numbered 12—15,000. We thus arrive, allowing for women and children, at a total population of about 150—170,000 of citizen and 35—40,000 of metic origin. The slaves, of whom over 20,000 deserted during the Decelean War, may well have numbered 80—100,000 but are unlikely to have exceeded 120,000. At the time of the Persian Wars the civic population probably stood at about the same total, though the proportion of thetes was markedly higher, but the metic and slave classes were very much smaller. The Peloponnesian War, however, witnessed a startling decline, due in part, to the havoc wrought by the plague, in part to the heavy casualties suffered in the war, while the devastation of Attica reduced to poverty large numbers of the third class, the zeugitae.
AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY
Although it is not until the time of Plato that we find the doctrine of the specialization of functions clearly enunciated, yet such specialization had made considerable strides even in the sixth century and was rapidly developed in every sphere during the fifth. Not all parts of the Greek world were equally affected. Some communities, such as those of the Ozolian Locrians, the Aetolians and the Acarnanians, were still living under primitive conditions at the time of the Peloponnesian War, and in country districts functions were less differentiated than in the towns, notably Athens and the Piraeus. We possess no fifth-century list of trades and callings comparable to that derived from the catalogi paterarum argentearum of the late fourth century, but the roll of those who in 401—400 b.c. were enfranchised for their services in the recent restoration of the Athenian democracy shows a noteworthy specialization. In it we find five agricultural labourers, a gardener, a walnut-seller, an oil-vendor, a donkeytender, a muleteer, a builder, a carpenter, a statuary, a cook, a baker, a fuller, a hired labourer and a maker or carrier of earthenware vessels. The same impression is left by the Peace of Aristophanes, by the Erechtheum accounts with their vivid picture of specialization in the working of wood, stone and metal, and by numerous incidental references in our sources, both literary and epigraphical.
Agriculture still held in the estimation of the Greeks a certain primacy as the most ancient and most natural of callings. Socrates, townsman though he was, is represented as uttering a fervent encomium of the physical, spiritual, social and economic results of farming, and Aristotle maintains the superiority of the agricultural over every other type of democracy. The old aristocracies were those of the gamoroi or landholders, and large estates survived in some districts, such as Thessaly, in the fifth century. But, even in states where a commercial oligarchy or a democracy was in power, the prestige of the farmer was maintained by the exclusion of all save citizens from the ownership of land. In Attica many large private estates had been broken up in the sixth century, though temples still retained their lands and let them to tenant farmers. But for the most part the soil was cultivated, as far as it was cultivable at all, by peasant proprietors, who appear to have been, if not prosperous, at least independent and contented until the devastation of Attica in the Peloponnesian War brought with it widespread unsettlement and ruin and inaugurated a period of hardship and struggle for the rural population. We also find gentlemen farmers, like the Ischomachus of whom Xenophon paints a detailed and attractive portrait in his Oeconomicus, owning and cultivating considerable farms with the aid of slaves or free labourers despite the temptation to migrate to the city and leave slave bailiffs to manage their estates. Of the price of fields inscriptions have preserved some records. In 414—13 b.c. a house and estate in Attica fetched 1200 drachmae and three fields 105, 205 and 10 drachmae respectively. A Halicarnassian document of about the middle of the century records the prices paid for the lands, houses and persons of insolvent debtors. Of the sixteen estates which were sold separately on this occasion, eleven fetched sums under 1000 Phoenician drachmae, three between 1000 and 2000, one 2405 and one 3600: the lowest price paid was 50 drachmae, the average 991. Houses ranged from 66 to 2000 Phoenician drachmae with an average of 815.
Despite some progress in the direction of more scientific farming, agriculture remained throughout the fifth century in a backward condition. The plough, though now provided with an iron share, showed no great advance on that of Homeric times and the traditional practice of allowing the land to lie fallow in alternate years gave way but slowly to a more economical system. Ischomachus’ repeated emphasis upon the extreme ease with which farming could be learned is in itself significant. Yet some farmers showed greater insight and energy than their fellows and found a profitable investment in the purchase and development of waste lands with a view to reselling them at a greatly enhanced price. In Attica especially the poverty of the soil and the shortage of water, aggravated by the progressive deforestation of the hillsides, confronted the farmer with a difficult task. Probably the cultivation of cereals never extended beyond one-fifth of the total area of the country and its productivity was reduced because in any year only half the cultivable land was actually tilled. Moreover, the greater part of Attica was unsuited for raising wheat and the ratio of wheat to barley was probably in the fifth century approximately what we know it to have been in 329—8 b.c., namely 1 : 9-8. Even in a favourable year Attica could hardly produce more than 450,000 medimni (c. 675,000 bushels) of cereals, the amount needed to feed a population of 75,000. This might possibly suffice for the needs of the rural population but was wholly inadequate to meet the requirements of the towns, and recourse was therefore had to importation from abroad. Scyros, Imbros and Lemnos may have already supplied some corn to Attica, Euboea almost certainly did so; but most of the islands required for their own consumption all the corn they produced, or even more. Many cities on the shores of the Aegean were apparently in the same position, for Methone in the early years of the Peloponnesian War asked leave to import several thousand medimni of Pontic wheat and about 470 b.c. Teos invoked a curse on anyone who should hinder the importation of corn by land or sea. Thus Athens was compelled to draw her supplies mainly from the steppes of the Ukraine, where Scythian farmers raised immense quantities of wheat for export. Athenian anxiety to keep the Pontic route open provides a master-key to the understanding of Athenian policy and strategy during this period. Sicily also supplied a certain amount of grain, and probably some came from Cyprus and from Egypt, which we know to have grown more corn than her own population consumed.
Athens was not the only state of Hellas which supplemented from foreign sources the internal food-supply, though she probably did so to a greater extent than any other. Thessaly, with her broad and fertile plains, was self-sufficing and perhaps exported her surplus produce; Boeotia probably met her own needs. But as early as 480 we hear of ‘corn-ships from the Pontus traversing the Hellespont on their voyage to Aegina and the Peloponnese,’ and one of the reasons for Athenian intervention in Sicily in 427 was to prevent the export of corn from there to the Peloponnese. Gelon, again, is represented as undertaking, if appointed leader of the Greeks in their struggle with Xerxes, to supply corn to the whole Greek army throughout the war. We must not, however, over-emphasize these references, all of which refer to periods of war, when the diversion of labour into military channels might well lessen production. The Peloponnese was probably normally self-supporting with the exception of states, such as Corinth, Aegina and Epidaurus, where trade and manufacture caused a large influx of aliens and slaves. These alone had the means of paying for imported corn; elsewhere, as in Arcadia, the problem of a growing population and a stationary food production was solved by the emigration of large numbers of men to serve abroad as mercenaries or in other capacities.
Attica with her lack of grassy plains was ill-suited to cattle- breeding; but some horses were kept for riding, mules and asses for transport and pigs for food, while sheep and goats found sufficient sustenance in the scrub and furnished the requisite supplies of wool and milk. Bee-keeping was successfully practised and provided a sugarless world with its one sweetening agent. Figs, vines and olives flourished, and Attic wine and oil were reckoned among the best in the Greek world: other fruits, vegetables and flowers were also grown near Athens, where extensive market-gardens sprang up to supply the demands of a great city, or were imported from Boeotia, the Megarid and the islands. Silviculture is conspicuous by its absence from Attica, where such trees as still remained were rapidly falling victims to the axe of the wood-merchant or charcoal-burner. Limber for furniture, construction and ship-building was usually imported, chiefly from Macedonia and Chalcidice but also from Southern Italy, Cyprus and Asia Minor.
While agriculture was held in honour throughout the Greek world, various judgments were passed on other forms of labour. Aristocracy tended to view them askance, notably manual work and retail trade, and many philosophers regarded the artisan and the merchant as incapable of the highest civic virtue. Socrates, however, preached the necessity of labour and its value, provided that it left the worker a sufficient margin of leisure, and in cities whose prosperity rested principally on industry and trade, such as Corinth and Athens, the disdain felt for base handicrafts tended to become mitigated, if not to disappear altogether.
The foremost characteristic of the industrial life of the period is the absence of any save the simplest machinery. This prevented the extreme specialization and the consequent monotony which are almost inseparable from modern industrial conditions; the ancient artisan, free from the hurry, the noise and the danger attendant upon mechanical mass-production, was able to develop greater originality and artistry in his work. Further, it militated against the growth of the factory system and so gave to the worker, whether freeman or slave, an enhanced sense of his individual importance. By far the largest factory known to us was that of Cephalus, who at the close of the fifth century employed 120 slaves in making shields: this was, however, quite exceptional, and the typical workshop probably contained the master and at most two or three hands. Only in mining were labourers normally employed in large masses, and even there the number of slaves working in a single mine can rarely have exceeded a hundred. Again, the absence of machinery averted, or at least minimized, the danger that the capitalist might crush the artisan. Even when some public work was to be carried out, the separate tasks assigned to contractors were made so small that those who had little or no capital could tender successfully. Some industries, especially those of spinning, weaving and the making of clothes, were traditionally organized on a family basis, but in this sphere production far outran family requirements and the surplus became available for the local market: indeed, the specialities of certain cities—e.g. the silken fabrics of Cos, the linens of Tarentum and the dyed woollens of Syracuse—were in demand throughout the Greek world.
The state did not attempt to regulate the conditions of labour, the hours of work or the rate of pay, nor was there any organization which aimed at safeguarding the interests of the employed. Most workers were probably engaged from sunrise to sunset, with a break during the hottest hours of the day in the summer months; but the tension was not comparable with that of today, and the master often toiled alongside of, and in friendly contact with, his apprentices and slaves. Only the miner’s lot was one of exacting and almost unrelieved labour, carried on in the narrow, ill-ventilated galleries of the Laurium silver-mines under the lash of a slave foreman: work went on without intermission, ten consecutive hours of employment for each gang alternating with ten of rest.
Very many producers sold direct to the consumers without the intervention of middlemen. But the needs of a large urban population brought into existence a class of retailers, who either hawked their wares about the streets or exposed them for sale on stalls and in shops erected in the Agora or elsewhere. Few of them were citizens and the non-productive nature of their work contributed to the low estimation in which they were held. Other retailers travelled from place to place, following in the wake of armies on the march, visiting the great festivals and fairs, or peddling their goods, as did the Aeginetans in especial, from village to village. Any considerable development of trade by land was, however, hampered by the mountainous nature of the country, the scarcity of good roads and of means of transport and the consequent costliness of carriage.
Owing to the physical configuration of the Greek world, its commerce was largely sea-borne. This fact, in conjunction with the enterprise of the Greek traders themselves, gave to Greek commerce a cosmopolitan character. An Athenian citizen of the Periclean age might enjoy not only Attic olive-oil and wine but also the corn and the dried fish of the Black Sea, the dates of Phoenicia and the cheeses of Sicily; he might wear slippers from Persia and lie on a Milesian bed with his head resting on a Carthaginian pillow. During the sixth century the Ionian cities had been especially active in this sphere, but the failure of the Ionian Revolt, the closing of the channels of trade between the Anatolian seaboard and the Persian hinterland, the political dominance and commercial enterprise of Athens, and the increasing importance of the Western Mediterranean combined to cause the transference of much of this commerce to the ports of Hellas. The power and wealth of Chalcis had been shaken by her defeat at Athenian hands in 506, while that of Eretria received a crushing blow in the destruction of the city by the Persians in 490; thus the old commercial prominence of Euboea passed away for ever. Many of the Greek states were absorbed in agriculture and the number of those which attempted to exploit the new commercial opportunities was very limited.
Among these there were three which, at the opening of the fifth century, stood in the foreground—Corinth, Aegina and Athens. Corinth reaped the fruits of her command of the Isthmus, her possession of sea-ports both on the Corinthian and on the Saronic Gulf, her direct access to the West, and her friendly relations with Syracuse, its most powerful city. On the other hand, the ill-will of Corcyra, her recalcitrant daughter, rendered her hold on the natural highroad to the West precarious, while her connections with the East were too weak to secure for her any considerable trade in the Aegean, from which, indeed, she seems to have practically withdrawn by the close of the sixth century. Aegina, peopled by an enterprising stock, which, in default of fertile lands, turned early to industry and to trade, developed a large navy and mercantile marine, carried on commercial activities over a wide sphere and amassed considerable wealth. Athens was too closely wedded to agriculture and too much distracted by internal feuds to throw herself wholeheartedly into a policy of commercial expansion in the Solonian period. Later, however, the long continued peace and prosperity secured by the tyrants, the political reorganization effected by Cleisthenes and the development of her staple manufactures, especially oil and pottery, led her to enter the lists and compete for commercial primacy. The result was a prolonged and bitter struggle with Aegina, which was suspended in face of the common danger involved in Xerxes’ invasion. At the outset Corinth seems to have favoured the new competitor, hoping that Athens would be of use to her in crushing their common rival: too late she realized that Athens had no mind to share, still less to leave in Corinthian hands, the fruits of their joint labours. In 459—8 b.c. she made desperate but unavailing efforts to avert the doom of Aegina, which after a protracted blockade became a tributary member of the Delian League: subsequently, in 431 b.c., the Aeginetans were driven from their island, which was settled by Attic cleruchs.
Thus freed from the rivalry of Aegina, Athens was able more effectively to challenge the position of Corinth in the West, where, ever since the sixth century, Attic pottery had enjoyed a growing popularity. The possession of Naupactus, the direct access to the Corinthian Gulf secured by the accession of Megara and her hold on Achaea enabled Athens to close the Western sea-route to Corinth, and though by the terms of the Thirty Years Peace she lost Pegae and Achaea, she may well have hoped to find some compensation in the colony of Thurii which she promoted and in her alliance with Corcyra in 433 b.c. In the North-East there was a notable revival of Athenian trade with the Black Sea soon after 440 b.c., a revival especially important because, as we have seen, this region afforded Athens the major portion of her food-supply. Megara, which through her seaports of Nisaea and Pegae traded in eastern and in western waters, had, after some fourteen years of subjection to Athenian control, recovered her independence by the revolt of 446 and this was secured to her by the Thirty Years Peace. Athens, however, did not forget or forgive and sought, by excluding her from the Attic markets and then from those of the Athenian Empire, to compass her economic ruin. The fact that Megara survived the Archidamian War, in which her territory was ravaged twice every year, her navy and her merchant-vessels were driven from the seas, and her principal harbour was menaced from Budorum and Minoa and finally captured by the Athenians in 424, bears eloquent testimony to her resources, her vitality and her determination.
Ever since the revelation of her naval power which had come to her at the battle of Salamis and was confirmed by that of the Eurymedon, Athens had set herself resolutely to become mistress of the sea and to extend her commerce in every direction. At the instance of Themistocles, the Piraeus was superbly fortified and the Athenians began to take full advantage of its three natural harbours, which were developed not only for naval purposes but also for those of trade. A mercantile port (Emporion) was laid out, quays were constructed and warehouses erected, while colonnaded buildings such as the Corn Exchange (Alphitopolis) of Pericles and the Deigma, where merchants displayed samples of their various wares and business contracts were concluded, served the ends both of utility and of beauty. Behind lay the city itself, with its teeming cosmopolitan population, its shrines of Greek and of foreign gods, its shops, its inns, its broad straight streets crossing at right angles according to the design of the famous architect and political theorist Hippodamus of Miletus—the earliest application on a large scale of a town-planning scheme.
A further task which Athens set herself was to police the seas effectively. At the beginning of the century piracy, fostered by the unsettled political conditions of the time, was a serious menace to trade in the Mediterranean. Herodotus’ stories of some of the eminent corsairs of those days, such as Dionysius of Phocaea and Histiaeus of Miletus, give us vivid glimpses of their methods, and even after the defeat of Xerxes and the liberation of Ionia, Teos thought it necessary to include in her commination service a curse upon magistrates who ‘should engage in piracy or wittingly harbour pirates’. The assumption of maritime hegemony by Athens brought a marked improvement. Cimon’s expedition to Scyros and that of Pericles to the Thracian Chersonese were primarily directed against this scourge, and the question of safe and peaceful navigation was one of those proposed for discussion at the Panhellenic Congress projected by Pericles. Probably this period was one of greater security for the mariner than any which had preceded since the breakdown of the Minoan thalassocracy and than any which followed until Pompey’s pacification of the Mediterranean in 67 b.c. The outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, however, caused a revival of privateering, which was aimed especially at trade with the Levant, and the downfall of Athens, by removing the only power which could enforce the safety of the seas, led directly to a serious recrudescence of piracy.
The fifth century also witnessed remarkable progress in navigation. Larger ships were built, some of them of 10,000 talents (about 256 tons) burden, and, although the old timidity was not wholly overcome and the coastal routes were still followed by preference, sailors began to dread the open sea less and to prolong their ventures beyond the limits of the recognized sailing season. The speed of vessels also increased: in 405 Theopompus the Milesian reached Sparta with news of the victory of Aegospotami ‘on the third day’ after leaving Lampsacus, having covered some 290 nautical miles by sea and over 30 miles by land. This speed was, no doubt, exceptional, but Herodotus reckons about 130 nautical miles as the twenty-four hours’ journey of a sailing vessel, which gives an average speed of slightly under 5I knots, and Xenophon states that a trireme could row in ‘a long day’s journey’ from Byzantium to Heraclea, a distance of 120 nautical miles.
Freights and passages by sea contrasted favourably with those by land. According to Plato, the fare from Aegina to the Piraeus was only 2 obols and that from Egypt or Pontus 2 drachmae at most for a passenger with wife, children and baggage. In 329 b.c. the transport of 100 tiles overland from Laciadae to Eleusis, a distance of about 12 miles, cost 40 drachmae, i.e. 40 per cent, of their purchase-price, while it cost but 6| drachmae to bring them by sea from Corinth, three times as far. This evidence dates, it is true, from the fourth century, but it probably represents approximately the conditions which had existed in the fifth.
THE COST OF LIVING
The primary needs of civilized man are food, clothing and shelter. Of a housing problem we hear nothing in the fifth century save under the exceptional conditions of the Peloponnesian War, when a large proportion of the rural population of Attica was forced to take shelter, occasionally or continuously, within the fortifications of Athens and the Piraeus. Town houses were for the most part simple and unpretentious, consisting of one or two storeys and often crowded together in narrow streets, although large tenements were also found at Athens and in some other cities. On the country estates of the aristocracy, on the other hand, the buildings were frequently larger and more costly. The citizen seems normally to have owned his own home, but non-citizens were legally debarred from owning real property; if, however, we may accept the evidence of Isaeus (c. 360 b.c.), land was leased for 8 per cent, and houses for about 8£ per cent, of their value, a surprisingly low proportion when compared with the current rate of interest. Furniture also was in general simple and inexpensive, though there were exceptional cases like that of Alcibiades, the inventory of whose bedroom furniture has in part survived to give us some idea of what may well have been at the time the most luxurious palace in Athens. Yet even here the prices realized—e.g. 90 drachmae for eleven couches of Milesian manufacture, 16 for four tables, 11 for a chair, 17 for a divan—are far from extravagant.
In clothing the Greeks at this period tended towards greater simplicity and uniformity. Men generally adopted the short woollen tunic (chiton) in place of the longer linen garment of the Ionians, while the bright hues of the previous period were discarded for a simple white or, for purposes of economy, some dark colour. At the end of the century a mantle (himation) cost from 16 to 20 drachmae and a workman’s overall (exomit) about 10 drachmae. Women’s clothing, in which the use of linen survived to a larger extent, was less simple, and probably, as a rule, more costly, than that of men. In very many homes, however, most or all of the processes of making woollen clothes were carried out by the women of the family or by female slaves, and the cost was thus considerably reduced. Footwear was extremely varied in style and ranged from very simple and cheap shoes to elaborate and expensive boots.
In eating and drinking there were considerable differences between district and district: at one end of the scale came the Spartan, whose common table was marked by extreme simplicity, at the other the Thessalian noble or the wealthy citizen of one of the western colonies. In general, however, the Greek lived simply and frugally, and, though the professional chef and the cookery-book had made their appearance before the close of the century, yet even among the wealthier classes there seems to have been little tendency towards that insensate extravagance which characterized the Roman aristocracy towards the end of the Republican period. The staple food was corn, of which wheat ranked high above barley in general estimation. This was ground into flour, usually in the house, and was eaten in the form either of porridge or of flat loaves: with it were taken olives, vegetables, nuts, cheese, figs and other fruits. Meat played a small part in the ordinary diet, though pork was regarded as a delicacy; but fish was commonly eaten, either fresh or dried, in which form it was imported in large quantities from the Propontis, the Euxine and elsewhere.
Upon this basis we may seek to estimate the minimum annual outlay of the town dweller in the latter part of the fifth century. The consumption of wheat was reckoned at a choinix per day for each adult, i.e. medimni per year of 360 days: at 2 drachmae a medimnus, this would cost 15 drachmae. For other food (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, etc.) and for drink we may allow f obol a day, or 45 drachmae a year. Clothing and shoes we may estimate at about 16 drachmae, rent (in the case of one who does not own his home) at 36 and incidental expenses at 8. Thus 120 drachmae a year, i.e. 2 obols a day, will suffice for the needs of an unmarried man. A wife will probably require less food, she will not increase the rent and her handiwork may well result in a lowering rather than an increase of the sum required for clothing: thus 3 obols a day, or 180 drachmae a year, should suffice for a married couple.
MONEY, WAGES AND INTEREST
The transition from natural economy to a money economy had already occurred before the dawn of the fifth century in all the more progressive states of Greece. Sparta, however, stood aside from the general development, debarring her citizens from the possession of silver and issuing only a currency consisting of iron bars; elsewhere also, especially in the country districts, the exchange of commodities or services must frequently have been effected without the intervention of money, while rents and salaries were still occasionally paid wholly or partly in kind.
In the opening years of the century currency was seriously restricted by the scarcity of the precious metals in the Aegean area, and the withdrawal of money from circulation by hoarding, on the part both of individuals and of temples, exercised a constant influence in the same direction. Herodotus tells of a Lydian who possessed 2000 talents of silver and 4,000,000 staters of cold, and the story, though perhaps untrue, is nevertheless significant. The shortage of silver was remedied by the intensive exploitation after 483 b.c. of the mines at Laurium and of the mineral resources of Mount Pangaeus and the surrounding country. This led to a steady advance in the price of gold, the ratio of which to silver, fixed by Darius at 13I : 1, had risen at Athens by 440 b.c. to 14 : 1 and by 434 to 1 7 A : 1 and at Syracuse to 15 : 1. Towards the close of the century, however, the copious influx of Persian gold brought about a rapid fall in its relative value, which stood at 12 : 1 at the end of the Peloponnesian War and a hundred years later had sunk, as a result of Alexander’s eastern conquests, to 10 : 1.
Persian gold darics circulated freely throughout the East, but gold was not minted by Greek states (with the exception of Cyrene) save as an emergency measure taken under acute pressure. Athens issued gold drachmae, equal in value to 12 silver drachmae, in 406, as part of her supreme effort to stave off defeat at Spartan hands, and about the same time Syracuse, Acragas, Gela and Camarina did the same, the last three presumably in face of the Carthaginian invasion which gave rise also to the earliest Carthaginian coinage. The complex monetary conditions of the Aegean world, with its various standards of weight and degrees of purity, were further complicated by the circulation of electrum, especially the staters of Cyzicus, Mitylene, Phocaea and Lampsacus, which were largely used by the Greeks in their Pontic commerce. Although the proportion of gold contained in early electrum coins varies between 5 and 72 per cent, and thus the intrinsic value of coins of the same weight may differ very markedly, electrum was in the sixth century conventionally regarded as having ten times the value of silver. This convention, however, gave electrum an exaggerated value, and in the fifth century a Cyzicene stater was recognized as the equivalent not of 38 but of 24 or 25 Attic silver drachmae.
Early in the century there were many local currencies which circulated within their respective states, but few which were widely recognized and accepted. Foremost among these were the coinages of Aegina and of Corinth, but even before the Persian Wars, and increasingly after 483, the Athenian silver ‘owls’ gained ground at their expense, thanks to the exactness of their weight, the purity of their metal and the imperial and commercial predominance of Athens. The conquest of Aegina almost, if not entirely, terminated the issue of Aeginetan coins, and Athenian currency won a monopoly in the Cyclades, most of which intermitted their autonomous issues, and in many cities of Asia Minor, where only small denominations were locally struck. Even where Athens could not impose her own coinage, her influence led, e.g. in Rhodes and Cos, to the temporary adoption of the Attic standard. Finally Athens sought by frank coercion to consummate her triumph: two decrees were passed ordering all subject cities to use exclusively Attic coinage, weights and measures on pain of a heavy fine. But though Athens might threaten, her power to enforce was gone, and the rapid spread of the Chian and Abderite standards towards the close of the period clearly indicates her relaxing hold upon her empire.
Our knowledge of the normal rate of pay in this century is very restricted, but the evidence indicates a marked upward tendency during its course. Thucydides repeatedly refers to the sums paid by Greek states to citizens or to aliens who served in the army or the navy, but the question is complicated by the fact that sometimes this pay was regarded as a ration-allowance while sometimes a wage was paid in addition to such allowance. According to a passage in Thucydides, the authenticity of which some scholars have called in question, each hoplite engaged in the siege of Potidaea received two drachmae a day, one for himself and one for his servant, and naval pay was on the same scale. A drachma was also paid daily to the sailors on the Athenian armada which besieged Syracuse and to the Thracian mercenaries who arrived too late to accompany Demosthenes to Sicily in 413, while the alliance between Athens, Argos, Mantinea and Elis, concluded in 420, secured an allowance of three Aeginetan (roughly equivalent to four Attic) obols a day to heavy infantry, light troops and archers, and an Aeginetan drachma to cavalry serving in allied territory. Tissaphernes paid an Attic drachma to those serving on the Spartan fleet, but wished to reduce this to three obols and actually did so temporarily on the ground that this was at the time the normal Athenian rate. Officers appear to have received twice, and generals four times, the hoplite’s pay.
We know little of the wage or subsistence-allowance granted during the second half of the century for civil service. Jurymen may have received originally one obol daily, but if so this was subsequently raised to two and again in 425, when two obols were no longer a living wage, to three. Somewhat larger sums were paid to the archons, the councillors and other magistrates. On the other hand, eminent doctors, musicians, actors and sophists frequently received considerable salaries or fees. Protagoras, Gorgias and Zeno are reputed to have charged on occasion 10,000 drachmae for the education of a single pupil; Prodicus of Ceos demanded for his courses of lectures fees ranging from 1 drachma to 50, for which latter sum he offered ‘a complete education in grammar and language, and Euenus of Paros was regarded as singularly moderate in charging only 500 drachmae for instruction in human and political virtue. Poets also, such as Simonides and Pindar, and professional speech-writers, the first of whom was Antiphon, received generous honoraria.
The fullest information relative to wages is preserved in the Erechtheum-accounts for 409-8 b.c. and the two following years, and the payments there recorded may be taken as normal towards the end of the century, reflecting the rise in the cost of living produced by the Peloponnesian War, while at the same time reduced to the lowest practicable level in view of the financial straits into which Athens had fallen. Remuneration was reckoned either by the day or by the piece. The daily wage of the artisan, whether citizen, metic or slave, was one drachma, irrespective of the work on which he was engaged. Other rates are rare, such as the drachma and a half paid to one who erected scaffolding for encaustic work, three obols to six men, perhaps apprentices, who took down and removed scaffolding and five obols for some unidentifiable service. Even the architect received only one drachma and his assistant secretary only five obols a day, but these were regular stipends paid each prytany and not dependent upon the number of working days.
Side by side with the system of a daily wage we find that of piece-work. The sculptures of the Erechtheum frieze, for example, were paid for at the flat rate of 60 drachmae per figure; encaustic decorators received five obols per foot for their work, the makers of bronze ornaments 14 drachmae for each article, and sawyers two obols and one drachma per section for 8-foot and for 24-foot timber respectively.
The rise in wages which we have just noticed appears to have been in part the outcome and in part the cause of the rise in prices which marked the course of the century and was accentuated by the Peloponnesian War. Data are wholly lacking save for Attica and even here they are woefully meagre. A medimnus of barley, which in the Solonian legislation had counted as the equivalent of a drachma, had risen to twice that price by the close of the fifth century, while early in the fourth wheat seems to have stood at 3 drachmae despite the immense quantities imported from the Euxine. Still more marked was the rise in the cost of sheep and cattle: in Solon’s time a sheep cost one drachma, while at the close of the fifth century 10 or even 20 drachmae were paid for a sheep and 50 or 100 for an ox. Of the cost of clothing and furniture something has already been said. Other recorded prices from the latter half of the Peloponnesian War are of less value, for we have no means of comparing them with those paid for similar commodities earlier in the century. Thus in 408—7 the Commissioners of the Erechtheum pay a drachma for boards on which to write their accounts, 11 drachmae for papyrus sheets, a drachma for leaves of gold used for gilding bronze ornaments and 5 drachmae per talent for lead. Again, we know some of the prices realized by the sale of the confiscated property of those found guilty of participation in the mutilation of the Hermae or other sacrilege, but the general financial instability of the times and the specially fluctuating character of auction-prices must be kept in mind, nor are the descriptions of the objects sold sufficiently detailed for our purpose.
Of the normal rate of interest little evidence is available. There is reason to believe that the practice of hoarding, while it remained common throughout the period, was increasingly abandoned by the more enlightened capitalists in favour of a policy of investment—e.g. in lands or houses, in slaves, in loans or mortgages—though it is not till the age of Demosthenes that we can trace the development of the most lucrative, albeit highly speculative, type of investment, that in bottomry, which frequently brought in extraordinarily quick and high returns. Far from placing any restriction upon the rate of interest, Solon appears to have secured by definite enactment the freedom of the lender in this respect, and his law is cited as still valid by Lysias in the early fourth century. Nevertheless, the increased plentifulness of silver and the progressive stabilization of financial transactions naturally tended to lower the current rate of interest. The Delian temple under Athenian control lent money in the years immediately preceding the Peloponnesian War for terms of five years at io per cent., but in this case the security demanded was probably exceptionally ample, and the usual rate may well have been 12 per cent, or even higher. The Athenians paid 6 per cent, on sums borrowed from Athena and other gods between 433 and 427 b.c. and only 1’5 per cent, during the following quinquennium: probably the people, in whose power it lay to prescribe the conditions of such loans, determined to pay a half, and later a tenth part, of the normal interest in order to maintain the principle that sums taken from the sacred treasures were in reality loans.
Of banking operations, apart from those of certain great temples, we find little trace till we reach the fourth century, though money-changers must have been common in the fifth, and some of them may already have laid the foundations upon which was to rise the highly developed banking system of the following period.
Our knowledge of the financial organization of the Greek states at this period is practically confined to Athens. Sparta can hardly be said to have possessed any system at all and on the eve of the Peloponnesian War her king Archidamus, while admitting that ‘war is not a matter of arms but of money,’ acknowledged that Sparta had neither revenue nor reserve. The Corinthians urged that the deficiency might be made good by contributions from the states composing the Spartan Confederacy and by loans from the funds at Delphi and Olympia, and we know that a subscription list was in fact opened, to which miscellaneous contributions, in money and in kind, were made by Spartan sympathizers. But though Sparta, thanks to her tradition of unpaid service and the restricted area of her operations, was able to meet the financial demands of the first eighteen years of the war, her attempt to cope with the Athenians on their own clement after the Syracusan disaster and to carry on the struggle in Ionian and Hellespontine waters might well have been frustrated had it not been for the opportune intervention of Tissaphernes and especially of Cyrus, who provided the funds necessary for the maintenance of a large fleet and the conduct of naval warfare.
Even the Athenian ideas of public economy were in some respects singularly rudimentary. Athens had no budget, no public debt, no Chancellor of the Exchequer, no permanent Treasury officials. As late as 482 it was seriously proposed to deal with an embarrassing surplus by means of a popular distribution, and throughout the century financial policy was, like every other aspect of public life, directly subject to the decisions of the sovereign Assembly and was supervised by the annually changing Council.
We may briefly review the principal sources of the Athenian state revenue. The sums drawn from lands, houses, quarries and other public property were probably moderate in amount with the exception of those derived from the silver mines of Laurium and from the gold and silver mines acquired in Macedonia and Thrace. The fiscal system of the Peisistratidae, who levied a fixed proportion of the produce of the soil, was abandoned by the democracy, which regarded such direct taxation, save as an emergency measure, as an infringement of civic liberty. Under the pressure of the Peloponnesian War, however, the Athenians repeatedly imposed upon themselves the property-tax, first in 428 b.c., when they raised in this way 200 talents as a contribution to the cost of the siege of Mitylene. On the other hand, various indirect taxes were levied at Athens as elsewhere. A duty of 1 per cent., later raised to 2 per cent., ad valorem on imports and exports was levied at the Piraeus, and its very moderation saved the state from the necessity of organizing elaborate measures to deal with attempted evasion: for duties levied on the land frontiers there is no evidence. In 413 the Athenians substituted for the tribute a 5 per cent, duty on goods passing into or out of the harbours of the Empire, hoping thus to increase their revenue; since the tribute in the preceding years had probably risen to, or above, 1000 talents, it would seem that the estimated volume of trade passing through the ports of tributary states surpassed 20,000 talents. A 10 per cent, tax (dekate) is mentioned in a decree of about 434 b.c.; its nature is not there indicated, but it has been conjecturally interpreted as a toll on Pontic trade, which may have been collected by the Hellespontophylaces in the Archidamian War and was revived by Alcibiades, who in 41 o instituted a toll-station at Chrysopolis on the Bosphorus. Athens further levied market-dues, a tax on sales concluded before state officials, a charge of 12 drachmae annually on metics and of half a drachma on slaves and freedmen, and a tax on those who pursued certain callings requiring special supervision, e.g. oracle-mongers, jugglers, and prostitutes. To the revenue so derived must be added court-fees and fines, as well as sums realized by the sale of the sequestrated property of debtors to the state.
An important part in Athenian finance was played by the sums paid by members of the Delian League, at first as a voluntary contribution to the cost of the war against Persia, later as a tribute demanded from subject states. The Treasury of the League, originally on the islet of Delos, was transferred to Athens in 454, and from that year onwards until the abolition of the tribute in 413 (see above) we can trace its fluctuations with fair accuracy thanks to the survival of considerable portions of the quota-lists, which recorded the sums paid to Athena annually on behalf of the several communities, consisting of one-sixtieth of the amount levied from each.
Of the total revenues of the Greek states we are ill-informed, but they must normally have been very small. Herodotus estimates that of Thasos, an exceptionally wealthy community, at 200 talents on an average and 300 in years of special prosperity. At the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War Athens received, according to Thucydides’ version of Pericles’ speech, on an average 600 talents of tribute annually from the allies exclusive of her remaining revenue, and though the quota-lists show that these words cannot be taken literally, yet they may correctly summarize the external revenue of the state. For the internal revenue we lack trustworthy data, but it can hardly have fallen short of, and may have appreciably exceeded, 400 talents.
This revenue amply sufficed to meet the ordinary expenditure of the state, all the more so because the cost of certain services involving a heavy outlay was borne by the wealthier citizens individually and not by the public exchequer. At Athens the most important of these services were the choregia, or maintenance, training and equipment of a lyrical, dramatic or musical chorus, the gymnasiarchia, which served a similar purpose for certain athletic contests, and the hestiasis, or provision of a banquet for the members of a tribe, to which must be added, especially in time of war, the trierarchia, or equipment and repair (involving also the command) of a trireme. The cost of these services varied with the public spirit and the means of the citizen concerned: the average outlay of a trierarch in the Peloponnesian War was about 5000 drachmae, while the choregus expended anything from 300 to 3000 drachmae, or even more, according to the occasion. One of Lysias’ clients spent no less than 9 talents 2600 drachmae on ‘liturgies’ between 411 and 403 b.c., but this sum far exceeded his legal obligations.
In a community in which church and state were inseparably associated, the maintenance of the established cults was dependent partly on the treasuries of the divinities concerned, partly on public funds. The temples and other sacred buildings erected in Attica, especially during the Periclean period, involved a large outlay, though we cannot accept Heliodorus’ statement that the Propylaea alone cost 2012 talents—a sum which probably represents the combined expenditure upon the Parthenon, including Pheidias’ colossal chryselephantine statue of Athena, and upon the Propylaea. Festivals and sacrifices also were subsidized in the Greek states, above all at Athens, where such celebrations were especially frequent and magnificent; in 415, for example, 9 talents were voted towards the expenses of the Lesser Panathenaea, and in 41 o, despite the financial stringency due to the military situation, over 6 talents were borrowed for the Great Panathenaea. Moreover, the practice of distributing money to the citizens to enable them to view dramatic or other performances seems to have originated with Pericles, though its full development belongs to the fourth century. The state also dedicated costly offerings at Delphi and elsewhere, but the expense of these was defrayed out of the booty taken in the victories they commemorated.
Payment for public service was introduced in the fifth century and caused a serious drain upon the resources of the state. The 500 Councillors received a drachma daily; for the pay of the jurymen. Thus the Council and the courts cost Athens after 425 b.c. an annual sum which may be estimated at between 120 and 150 talents. We must not, however, regard these and similar payments merely as indicating the demagogic methods of Athenian politicians and the rapacity of Athenian citizens. The large membership of the Council and of the courts was fixed long before the introduction of pay and, so far from being a mere device for subsidizing a maximum number of citizens, was based upon a fundamental article of the democratic faith; but experience soon showed that, if no compensation were offered for the time devoted to public service, the deliberative, administrative and judicial work would de facto be monopolized by the wealthier classes and would consequently fail to embody the democratic spirit. Even non-democratic states sometimes found it necessary to adopt the same system, though within narrow limits.
The expenditure upon public works other than temples provided for the building and repair of roads, fountains, markets, gymnasia, law-courts, council-house, etc., but above all for the construction and maintenance of the massive walls which surrounded and united Athens and the Piraeus, of the arsenal and dockyards, and for the fortification of strategic positions, especially on the frontier, such as Eleusis, Panactum, Phyle and Sunium. Even in time of peace considerable sums were spent on the military and naval establishments, for the building of ships, which in Themistocles’ time had become an annual charge upon the state, the maintenance of the cavalry brigade, the provision of arms and tackle, and the payment of the forces engaged in patrolling or garrisoning important points in the Empire. Order was maintained in the city by means of a body of public slaves, originally 300 in number but subsequently raised to 1000, who were called indifferently archers or Scythians: these the state had to maintain or increase by purchase and to give them an allowance at least sufficient to provide food and clothing.
Upon education as such Athens, unlike her colony Thurii, spent nothing, though she provided gymnasia and wrestling chools and occasionally bestowed honoraria upon distinguished literary men such as Pindar and Herodotus. She did, however, organize something of the nature of a poor-law system, granting relief to the incapacitated and maintaining till they came of age the children of those who fell in war. Towards the close of the century the ruin of the rural population, especially after the Spartan occupation of Decelea, led to a more general distribution of poor-relief and the ‘two-obol payment’ became one of the heaviest demands on the public exchequer.
The supremely disturbing factor in state finance was war, which involved the ravaging of land, the destruction of property, the impoverishment of the peasantry, the diversion of much labour into unproductive channels and the heavy cost of military, and especially of naval, warfare. Not only were mercenary troops increasingly employed, but, as war developed from a succession of short and isolated campaigns into a continuous series of operations, conducted over a wide area and often in several fields simultaneously, the payment of all the forces mobilized became necessary and costly. True, the hoplite armies engaged were rarely large: the Peloponnesian League, for example, seems to have used only some 20,000 hoplites on foreign service, the Argives had probably no more than 6000, the Boeotian Confederacy in the latter part of the century mustered but 11,000 hoplites and 1100 cavalry all told. Yet the pay of a force of 12,000 men for 150 days at the rate of four obols a day would amount to 200 talents. Naval warfare necessitated a much greater outlay. This period witnessed the universal adoption of the trireme in place of the penteconter as battleship. Each trireme cost about a talent to construct and its life was, at best, short. Its crew of 200 would cost the state in wages, at three obols a day, half a talent monthly. Thus the larger operations of the Peloponnesian War, especially those involving sieges or blockades, proved very expensive. Thucydides estimates at 2000, Isocrates at 2400, talents the cost of the Athenian siege of Potidaea (432—30 b.c.), and the Syracusans are said to have spent a sum far exceeding 2000 talents in the defence of their city against the Athenian Armada (415—13); the total drain on the Athenian exchequer of the Archidamian war (431—21) has been estimated at about 12,000 talents.
It is impossible to estimate accurately the capital value of Athenian property at this period. A valuation carried out in 378 b.c. for the purpose of assessing the property-tax gave a total of 5750 talents, but this excluded the property of the state and of the lowest class of citizens. The corresponding total would doubtless have been considerably larger when Athens was at the height of her prosperity before the Peloponnesian War, though the steady rise of prices would tend to reduce the difference. Of the property of individual citizens we learn some details. Callias, the richest Athenian of the Periclean period, was popularly reputed to possess 200 talents and Nicias 100, but these sums are probably gravely exaggerated. Nicias’ son Niceratus left only 14 talents at his death and Conon, one of the wealthiest men of his day, about 40. Socrates is represented as drawing a contrast between his own property, which he valued at 500 drachmae, and that of the well-to-do Critobulus, who possessed more than 8’3 talents.
The chief financial officials at Athens during this period were the colacretae, who received and disbursed the internal revenue, the Hellenotamiae, who administered the funds derived from the League, the Treasurers of the Sacred Moneys of Athena, usually called Treasurers of the Goddess, and the Treasurers of the other Gods, constituted probably in 435 or 434, by the decree of Callias. The building up of a state reserve, distinct from the treasure of the goddess, seems to have been no part of Athenian policy, and it is doubtful whether there were any considerable accumulations in the League Treasury when it was transferred from Delos to Athens in 454. Normally the revenue of the state balanced or exceeded the expenditure; in emergencies any requisite sum could be borrowed from the sacred funds, to be subsequently repaid with interest. We may thus believe that the 9700 talents referred to in Thucydides as the largest sum ever accumulated in the Acropolis, as well as the 6000 which remained there at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, constituted the treasure of Athena, fed largely by the balances left in the hands of the Hellenotamiae in years when military expenses had fallen short of imperial revenue.