Money, Labour, and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece

Money, Labour, and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece

Money, Labour, and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece

Money, Labour, and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece


The cultural wealth of the classical Greek world was matched by its material wealth, and there is abundant textual and archaeological evidence for both. However, radically different theoretical and methodological approaches have been used to interpret this evidence, and conflicts continue to rage as these different starting points produce clashing views on the significance and distribution of money, labour and land. Money, Labour and Land reflects the current explosion in ideas and research by assembling case-studies from an international selection of renowned US, British and European scholars. Drawing on comparative historical and anthropological approaches, sociological, economic and cultural theory, and developments in epigraphy, legal history, numismatics and spatial archaeology, this volume will be of interest to all students and scholars of ancient economies.


Geoffrey Lloyd

When the term 'economics' was eventually coined - in the early twentieth century - was that an invention or a discovery? In one sense it was clearly an invention, in that a new learned discipline came into being, to take its place among other university departments, staffed with its professors and lecturers in designated areas of the subject. But what about the phenomena that were studied by that discipline? Were they called into being or had they been there all along?

Let me elaborate those two alternatives with some analogies. On the option that the phenomena were invented, the analogy would be with, say, the jet engine. That certainly did not exist in any sense before it was invented. Similarly some historians of science (such as Latour) have argued that microbes did not exist before Pasteur, and they have pointed to the feedback or loop effect of the creation of a concept such as that of child abuse. Once that concept was made explicit, so Hacking has argued, it called into being the very phenomena that it was used to describe.

On the other option, that of discovery, the analogy would be that of Columbus discovering America. The lands that now go by that name were certainly there before Columbus arrived and mistook them for countries bordering on China. However for the indigenous peoples of America whom Columbus discovered, what they discovered - or had thrust to their attention - was the realisation that there were foreigners eager to convert them to Christianity and to appropriate their land.

Every social anthropologist is taught to be careful to distinguish between actors' and observers' categories, the former the concepts that the peoples they study use to describe their experience, the latter those brought into play by the anthropologists themselves. Where economics is concerned, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a word for it. Rather, the Greeks had a word, - from which our own term is derived of course - but that meant something very different, the orderly management of the household or estate (see Cartledge, Chapter 10).

Ancient authors obviously paid far less attention than modern ones to such topics as exchange value, price inflation, supply and demand, banking and credit, coinage, work, and they arguably pay none at all to such phenomena as

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