Trade and Politics in Ancient Greece

Trade and Politics in Ancient Greece

Trade and Politics in Ancient Greece

Trade and Politics in Ancient Greece

Excerpt

The object of this book has been to define the relation of the classical Greek State to commerce in all its forms and activities, and to describe its commercial policy. Such a task could not be attempted, in the present state of these studies, without adopting a definite position in regard to the problems of Greek commerce and the Greek economy in general; for ancient economic history is still in its infancy. Of all the problems of ancient history, that of the material background has been the last to come within the range of the classical scholar; and even the economic historian, confronted by the difficulties of a very differently constituted body of evidence, has hesitated to go back beyond the beginnings of the Middle Ages. Thus the degree of economic development attained in antiquity is still one of the most disputed questions of history. To-day there is a reaction against the familiar idealisation of antiquity, and the theory that it had reached an advanced stage of economic development has found support. The holders of this view regard the economic phenomena of the classical age as more or less closely comparable to those of to-day -- as may be seen from their practice of projecting purely modern conceptions into the past. In particular they see in the fifth and fourth centuries before our era a period of national and world economy in which industry was the predominant feature. Opposed to this view there is the other, which insists upon the markedly primitive economic conditions of the ancient world, and in effect will not allow it to have passed beyond the stage of the independent 'household economy.'

On the whole it is coming to be recognised that the extreme modernising attitude, hitherto prevalent, can no longer be maintained. The household-economy theory of Rodbertus and Bücher was exaggerated; but there is no longer any reason . . .

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