Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Start-Up Culture in Ancient Greece

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Start-Up Culture in Ancient Greece

Article excerpt

Honduras wants to establish start-up cities to experiment with alternative economic, regulatory, and legal systems. Could this concept help stop mass migration into Europe?

Ancient Greeks, living in a time and place when poverty was endemic, were adventurers and readily took to the seas to establish their start-ups abroad, all around the coasts of the Mediterranean. These apoikiai ('homes from home'), far from being 'colonies', were in fact new, wholly independent Greek cities. They were variously motivated by e.g. the search for fertile farming land and profitable raw materials, trade in slaves, metals and luxury goods, proximity to and therefore business with non-Greeks, and so on. They spread around the Med 'like frogs around a pond' (Plato).

Take, for example Massalia ('settlement', modern Marseilles). Greeks there did business not in the usual sailing ships but in 50-oared penteconters, giving them advantage over Etruscan and Phoenician trading rivals and security against pirates. …

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