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was ancient greece economy based on a division of social classes

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Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the L…

was a fervent civilization and the Greek society was divided based on socialism or classes into four strata. Only, the superior class of the Greek society enjoyed some privileges and benefits. The lower class people including the slaves were denied even the basic human rights.

Athenian society was ultimately divided into four main social classes: the upper class; the metics, or middle class; the lower class, or freedmen; and the slave class.May 4, 2022

Full Answer

What is the social hierarchy of ancient Greece?

Ancient Greek Social Hierarchy. Ancient Greece was a fervent civilization and the Greek society was divided based on socialism or classes into four strata. Only, the superior class of the Greek society enjoyed some privileges and benefits.

What was the economy of ancient Greece based on?

It is also important to remember that Greek society and the ancient Greek economy was based on slave labor. This resulted in two outcomes:

How were the lower class treated in ancient Greece?

The lower class people including the slaves were denied even the basic human rights. In this article the hierarchy of the Greek society from the upper to the lower class has been described. The topmost and superior class in the Ancient Greek Social Hierarchy was this Upper Class.

What was society like in ancient Greece?

Though society was dominated by men and was made up of independent city-states, there were (often illegal) interactions between the classes. Movement between ancient Greek social classes also occurred, usually in second-generation Greek children and at times of stress, such as during a war.

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What kind of society was ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece was made up of several different independent city-states that shared religion and culture. They were brought together by traditions...

What were the main social classes in ancient Greece?

The main social classes of ancient Greece consisted of slaves, metics (non-citizen free persons), women, and then citizens. To be a citizen, one ha...

What was the social structure of Athens?

The social structure of Athens consisted of an assembly whose members were elected by the citizens. Athens itself was ruled by archons. An annual e...

How did trade in Greece affect the financial system?

Most merchants, lacking sufficient cash assets, resorted to borrowing to finance all or part of their expeditions . A typical loan for a large venture in 4th century BC Athens, was generally a large sum of cash (usually less than 2,000 drachmas), lent for a short time (the length of the voyage, a matter of several weeks or months), at a high rate of interest (often 12% but reaching levels as high as 100%). The terms of the contract were always laid out in writing, differing from loans between friends ( eranoi ). The lender bore all the risks of the journey, in exchange for which the borrower committed his cargo and his entire fleet, which were precautionarily seized upon their arrival at the port of Piraeus .

What was the trade in ancient Greece?

Trade in ancient Greece was free: the state controlled only the supply of grain. In Athens, following the first meeting of the new Prytaneis, trade regulations were reviewed, with a specialized committee overseeing the trade in wheat, flour, and bread.

What were the main drivers of trade in Ancient Greece?

One of the main drivers of trade in Ancient Greece was colonization . As larger city states set up colonies, there would be trade between the founding city and its colony. Furthermore, differing climates between cities and their respective colonies created comparative advantages in goods.

Why did the Greeks bring the art of ceramics to the Greeks?

The heights to which the Greeks brought the art of ceramics is, therefore, due entirely to their artistic sensibilities and not to technical ingenuity. Pottery in ancient Greece was most often the work of slaves. Many of the potters of Athens assembled between the agora and the Dipylon, in the Kerameikon.

What was the main cause of the tension between the landowners and the peasants in the 7th century?

In the ancient era, most lands were held by the aristocracy. During the 7th century BC, demographic expansion and the distribution of successions created tensions between these landowners and the peasants. In Athens, this was changed by Solon 's reforms, which eliminated debt bondage and protected the peasantry.

What is the importance of Greek soil?

Greek soil has been likened to "stinginess" or "tightness" ( Ancient Greek: stenokhôría, στενοχωρία) which helps explain Greek colonialism and the importance of the cleruchies of Asia Minor in controlling the supply of wheat. The olive tree and grapevine, as well as orchards, were complemented by the cultivation of herbs, vegetables, ...

Why was agriculture important in Greece?

As a result of the poor quality of Greece 's soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece's paramount location, as its position in the Mediterranean gave its provinces control over some of Egypt's most crucial seaports and trade routes.

What was the Greek economy like?

The ancient Greek economy is somewhat of an enigma. Given the remoteness of ancient Greek civilization, the evidence is minimal and difficulties of interpretation abound. Ancient Greek civilization flourished from around 776 to 30 B.C. in what are called the Archaic (776-480), Classical (480-323), and Hellenistic (323-30) periods. 2 During this time, Greek civilization was very different from our own in a variety of ways. In the Archaic and Classical periods, Greece was not unified but was comprised of hundreds of small, independent poleis or “city-states.” During the Hellenistic period, Greek civilization spread into the Near East and large kingdoms became the norm. Throughout these periods of ancient Greek civilization, the level of technology was nothing like it is today and values developed that shaped the economy in unique ways. Thus, despite over a century of investigation, scholars are still debating the nature of the ancient Greek economy.

How did the economy of the Hellenistic period change?

In large part owing to the Near Eastern conquests of Alexander the Great, but also because of social and economic changes that had already been occurring during the Classical period, the economy of the Hellenistic period (323-30 B.C.) grew immensely in scale. The Finley model is probably right in general to hold that the essentially consumptive nature of the economy in the traditional Greek homelands changed little during this time. But it is clear that there were significant innovations in some places and sectors on account of the collision and fusion of Greek notions of the economy with those of the newly won lands of the Near East. Thus, we see greatly increased government control over the economy, as evidenced most strikingly in the surviving papyrus records of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt.

How many people were in Athens in 431 B.C.?

Generally accepted figures for Athens at the height of its power and prosperity in 431 B.C., though, are in the range of approximately 305,000 people, of which perhaps 160,000 were citizens (40,000 male, 40,000 female, 80,000 children), 25,000 were free resident foreigners ( metics ), and 120,000 were slaves.

How did the Ptolemaic state produce olive oil?

The Ptolemaic state also involved itself in various manufacturing processes, such as olive oil production. Not only were the olives cultivated on state-controlled lands by peasant labor, but the oil was extracted by contracted labor and sold at the retail level by licensed dealers at fixed prices. However, the state probably had no intention to improve efficiency or to provide better quality olive oil at lower prices to its citizens. The Ptolemies instituted a tax on imported olive oil of 50 percent that was essentially a protective tariff. The goal of the government seems to have been to protect the profits of its state-run business.

How were Greek coins made?

Ancient Greek coins are similar in appearance to modern ones. But like other manufactured products in ancient Greece, they were made by hand. A blank metal circular “flan” was placed on an obverse die that rested on an anvil and then was struck with a hammer bearing a reverse die. The nature of the process naturally produced coins in which the image was often poorly centered on the flan. Nevertheless, the issuing authority, usually a government, was clear as the designs or “types” of the coins expressed an image symbolic of the issuing authority and were often augmented by a “legend” of letters that spelled out an abbreviation of the issuing authority’s name.

How did slavery affect the Greek economy?

Slavery also affected manufacturing in ancient Greece. It is often said that technology and industrial organization stagnated in ancient Greece because the availability of cheap slave labor obviated any imminent need to improve them. If one wanted to produce more, one merely bought a few more slaves. Thus, most manufactured products were literally hand-made with simple tools. There were no assembly lines and no big factories. The largest manufacturing establishment we know of was a shield factory owned by the metic, Cephalus, the father of the orator, Lysias, which employed 120 slaves. Most manufacturing was carried out in small shops or within households. Hence, in comparison with agriculture, manufacturing comprised a small part of the ancient Greek economy.

What are the three philosophers who wrote about economics?

Philosophical works, especially those of Xenophon, Plato, and Aristotle, provide us with an insight into how the ancient Greeks perceived and analyzed economic matters. We learn about the place of economic activities within the Greek city-state, value system, and social and political institutions.

What was the social hierarchy in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greek Social Hierarchy. Ancient Greece was a fervent civilization and the Greek society was divided based on socialism or classes into four strata. Only, the superior class of the Greek society enjoyed some privileges and benefits. The lower class people including the slaves were denied even the basic human rights.

What was the middle class in ancient Greece?

The next strata of the ancient Greek society was the Middle Class. This class of people were not the original citizens of Athens but were foreigners who had come to Greece to settle down. The people of the Middle Class were free men and not bonded labourers like the slaves, but they were denied the privileges granted to the Upper Class.

What was the topmost class in the Greek social hierarchy?

The topmost and superior class in the Ancient Greek Social Hierarchy was this Upper Class . The people belonging to this class had the ultimate power and status in society. In order to enjoy the benefits and privileges granted to the people of the upper strata of the society, one had to be a citizen of Athens and it could only be acquired on the basis of heredity. The people of the upper class exhibited a good moral character, brilliant artistic sense, and were highly social.

What is the lower class of society?

Freedmen – The Lower Class. This class of the society comprised of the free men who were once slaves or bonded labourers. They now belonged to the lower class and enjoyed the basic human rights. They did not enjoy the privileges granted to the Upper Class people, but their plight was certainly better than the slaves.

Why did the upper class buy slaves?

They bought slaves to have their household chores done. These slaves were tortured, flogged and ill treated by their masters.

What was the condition of the Greek slaves?

These slaves were either bought with money, rescued from war or were criminals. The majority of the slaves were non Greeks who were even denied the basic human rights.

What were the lower class people denied?

The lower class people including the slaves were denied even the basic human rights. In this article the hierarchy of the Greek society from the upper to the lower class has been described.

Why were economics important to ancient Greeks?

A primary reason for this is due to the fact that for the ancient Greeks questions concerning “economics” were considered subservient to other themes considered far more crucial to human life and society. For the Greek philosophers and social thinkers, the central themes were questions of “justice,” “virtue,” “the good,” and “the beautiful.”.

What is the Greek view of society?

An extension of this is an appreciation of the general view that the ancient Greeks had concerning the individual in society. Their conception was that the individual was dependent upon the society in which he was born for all that he could or did become as a person.

Why did Plato expand the city state?

Plato admits that if the city-state is to satisfy both the necessities of men and the “higher” and more cultured aspects of their potential lives, the city had to expand to a size large enough to include the required population, land, and resources to fulfill their higher and more cultured wants as well.

Why do cities need a class of men?

To defend itself from competing city-states and to expand to have the requisite population, land, and resources for this “higher” cultured life, any city-state would need a class of men in the division of labor trained and skilled to protect and conquer territory, resources, and slaves to perform the work to be done.

What were the central themes of the Greek philosophers?

For the Greek philosophers and social thinkers, the central themes were questions of “justice,” “virtue,” “the good,” and “the beautiful.” What today we call “economic” questions and problems were relegated to a narrow corner of evaluating how economic institutions and organization could be designed or modified to serve these “higher” ends or goals.

What did the ancient Greeks leave behind?

by Richard Ebeling. The ancient Greeks left a wealth of knowledge through their surviving writings on a wide variety of themes, including science, logic, philosophy, literature, and the arts. In addition, the city-state of Athens is considered the birthplace of intellectual freedom and democracy – lasting legacies that helped to mold the ideas ...

Who controlled every aspect of life?

Indeed, every aspect of every individual’s life was to be controlled and directed by the State. At one point, Plato says:

How did the class structure of Rome affect the economy?

Because the city of Rome itself dominated and directed the form and function of the huge international economy, the class structure at Rome exerted a huge influence on the operation of the net-work throughout the empire. Usually, an official appointed at Rome governed a province and would inevitably expect the economy and class system of the sort with which he was familiar. Furthermore, he had the authority to shape and guide the local economy so it would fit the Romans’ plans. The Romans recognized several different classes in their society. While Romans of the various classes were not legally bound to particular professions or barred from others, the force of tradition and social pressure meant that in practice Romans of a particular class would most often occupy certain positions and perform specified types of work. Moreover, in many cases, membership in a particular class might legally require a specific level of wealth, which in turn would affect what professions the members of that class engaged in.

What were the social classes of the Romans?

At any time in Roman history, individual Romans knew with certainty that they belonged to a specific social class: Senator, Equestrian, Patrician, Plebeian, Slave, Free. In some cases they were born into that class. In some cases, their wealth or the wealth of their families ensured them membership. Sometimes a political honor could gain them entry to a class. In other cases, Romans could move from one class to another during their lifetime. Over time, the requirements for some classes and moving between classes changed, but at any given moment, there was never any doubt over which Romans belonged to which class. Because the members of one class might enjoy a standard of living far better, or far worse, than members of another class, struggles or even wars could break out over the rights and powers of a given class. One key to the Romans’ great success was keeping stability and order among the classes of their own people.

How did the Romans demonstrate their practicality?

Infrastructure. The Romans consistently displayed their famous practicality by devoting many of their resources to establishing a basic infrastructure to meet fundamental human needs. When they conquered or annexed a city, they would build roads, buildings, and do more to establish or strengthen the infrastructure of the city and incorporate it into the network of the Roman Empire. Many people had to work together to set up the structures to acquire and distribute the basic needs of food, water, shelter, health, and safety. The agricultural base of the economy tried to keep foodstuffs in adequate supply. The Romans built miles and miles of aqueducts, many of which survive to this day, to supply water to individuals and also to irrigate farmland. They constructed temples, buildings, theaters, arenas, and other public works. All such works required architects, suppliers, and laborers in huge numbers. Brickmaking, for example, became an enormous industry. In the process of establishing networks to supply these basic needs and for transporting building materials, the Romans also made the transport and procurement of luxury items easier.

What were the economics of the Roman Empire?

As they built and expanded their empire, the Romans earned, or at times demanded, the respect of the peoples, communities, and nations they incorporated into their empire. For hundreds of years, the Romans surpassed every other people they encountered in at least two respects: their military prowess and their ability to organize their empire in times of peace. The Roman economy, then, consisted of the millions of workers across the Roman Empire and beyond, who farmed, built, crafted, traded, educated, enjoyed, and managed a network of products and services in an organized system. This system became so vast and complex that wealthy Romans could purchase clothes made of silk from China, although the person who bought them might never have known where they came from or how they were made.

What were the patrician families?

To be a member of the patrician class, one had to be born into it. Throughout much of the Republic, patricians dominated the important political and religious offices of government. Patrician families were historically prestigious, and through these offices and membership in the Senate they would have had control and influence over many financial dealings. By the end of the Republic, many of the patrician families had died out. The Roman emperors, beginning with Julius Caesar, were given the power to designate new patrician families, but within a few hundred years even this practice faded, and the entire class disappeared. Finally, the Emperor Constantine used the title patricius to recognize an individual’s service to Rome, but the ties to the hereditary Roman nobility no longer existed.

How did the Senate change during the early empire?

As Augustus gradually set up an imperial administration, the duties and membership of the Senate changed. When the rolls stabilized at six hundred, it became easier for sons to inherit their fathers’ senatorial positions, and the property requirement became one million sesterces (a Roman monetary unit). While in some ways these reforms stabilized the membership, the emperors controlled the membership substantially. An emperor could ensure the Senate consisted of his friends and supporters by manipulating the membership. The emperor could, for example, give or loan money to a supporter in order to meet the minimum property requirement to enter the senatorial order. The composition of the order also changed. Whereas at the start senators came almost exclusively from Italy, during the course of the early empire the makeup of the Senate began to reflect the expanding empire , and eventually the majority came from outside Italy itself. The Senate no longer served as the ultimate authority on finances and economic policy, but it was an important political body, and it controlled many key positions and offices from which senators wielded economic power, in addition to being wealthy and powerful individuals in their own right.

What was the Senate in Rome?

Senators during the Republic. As Roman power expanded through military conquest, the Senate became the most powerful and prestigious governing institution of Rome. The specific requirements for belonging to the Senate changed over time, but the Senate regularly included men who had served in some government office, such as quaestor, and all members were wealthy men who owned large amounts of land in Italy. The Senate controlled the finances of Rome and so was the most powerful single entity in the Roman economy. Theoretically, the members of the Senate were supposed to direct and make the best decisions for Rome without directly participating in business ventures. Strictly speaking, senators could not bid on the state contracts the Senate set up, nor could they own the large ships used for bigger trading ventures. Senators were also supposed to represent traditional Roman values, which meant in part playing the role of humble but hardworking farmers, and soldiers when necessary. Consequently, senators were not supposed to engage in menial labor or commerce. In practice, however, senators amassed and maintained their fortunes by doing favors for their friends and clients, as well as acting as secret partners in business ventures.

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Overview

The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region's dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece's soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece's paramount location, as its position in the Mediterranean gave its provinces control over some of Egypt's most crucial se…

Agriculture

Greek soil has been likened to "stinginess" or "tightness" (Ancient Greek: stenokhôría, στενοχωρία) which helps explain Greek colonialism and the importance of the cleruchies of Asia Minor in controlling the supply of wheat. The olive tree and grapevine, as well as orchards, were complemented by the cultivation of herbs, vegetables, and oil-producing plants. Husbandry was badly developed due to a lack of available land. Sheep and goats were the most common types of …

Crafts

Much of the craftsmanship of ancient Greece was part of the domestic sphere. However, the situation gradually changed between the 8th and 4th centuries BC, with the increased commercialization of the Greek economy. Thus, weaving and baking, activities so important to the Western late medieval economy, were done only by women before the 6th century BC. After the growth of commerce, slaves started …

Trade

Greece's main exports were olive oil, wine, pottery, and metalwork. Imports included grains and pork from Sicily, Arabia, Egypt, Ancient Carthage, and the Bosporan Kingdom.
The main participants in Greek commerce were the class of traders known as emporoi (ἕμποροι). The state collected a duty on their cargo. At Piraeus (the main port of Athens), this tax was set initially at 1% or higher. By the end of the 5th century, the tax had been raised to 33 talents (Ando…

Taxation

Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. The eisphorá (εἰσφορά) was a tax on the wealth of the very rich, but it was levied only when needed — usually in times of war. Large fortunes were also subject to liturgies which was the support of public works. Liturgies could consist of, for instance, the maintenance of a trireme, a chorus during a theatre festival, or a gymnasium. In some cases, the prestige of the undertaking could attract volunteers (analogous …

Currency

Coinage probably began in Lydia around the cities of Asia Minor under its control. Early electrum coins have been found at the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. The technique of minting coins arrived in mainland Greece around 550 BC, beginning with coastal trading cities like Aegina and Athens. Their use spread and the city-states quickly secured a monopoly on their creation. The very first coins were …

Shopping

The shopping centres in Ancient Greece were called agoras. The literal meaning of the word is "gathering place" or "assembly". The agora was the centre of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens was the best-known example. Early in Greek history (18th century–8th century BC), free-born citizens would gather in the agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Every city had its agora where merchant…

See also

• Slavery in Ancient Greece
• Roman economy
• Economy of Greece

Introduction 1

  • The ancient Greek economy is somewhat of an enigma. Given the remoteness of ancient Greek civilization, the evidence is minimal and difficulties of interpretation abound. Ancient Greek civilization flourished from around 776 to 30 B.C. in what are called the Archaic (776-480), Classical (480-323), and Hellenistic (323-30) periods.2 During this time...
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Sources of Evidence

  • Although the ancient Greeks achieved a high degree of sophistication in their political, philosophical, and literary analyses and have, therefore, left us with a significant amount of evidence concerning these matters, few Greeks attempted what we would call sophisticated economic analysis. Nonetheless, the ancient Greeks did engage in economic activity. They prod…
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The Debate About The Ancient Greek Economy

  • As stated above, the ancient Greek economy has been the subject of a long-running debate that continues to this day. Briefly stated, the debate began in the late nineteenth century and revolved around the issue of whether the economy was “primitive” or “modern.” These were a poor choice of terms with which to conceptualize the ancient Greek economy and are to a great extent respo…
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The Finley Model and Its Aftermath

  • At present the most widely accepted model of the ancient Greek economy is that which was first set forth by Moses Finley in 1973. This view owes much to the Weber-Hasebroek-Polanyi line of analysis and holds that the ancient Greek economy was fundamentally different from the market economy that predominates in most of the world today. Not only was the ancient Greek econom…
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The Archaic Period

  • Finley’s model holds most true for the Archaic period (c. 776-480 B.C.) of ancient Greek history. Archaeological evidence and literary references from such works as the epic poems of Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey), the Works and Days of Hesiod, and the works of the lyric poets attest to an economy that was generally small in scale and centered on household production and con…
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Key Economic Sectors of The Classical Period

  • During the Classical period of ancient Greek history (480-323 B.C.), continued increases in population as well as political developments influenced various sectors of the economy to the extent that one can see a growing number of deviations from the Finley model. Evidence concerning the economy also becomes more abundant and informative. Thus, a more detailed d…
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Public and Private Economic Sectors

  • It is first necessary to distinguish between the public and private sectors of the economy. Throughout most of ancient Greek history before the Hellenistic period, a free enterprise economy with private property and limited government intervention predominated. This places Greece in sharp contrast to most other ancient civilizations, in which governmental or religious institution…
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Land

  • As in the Archaic period, the most important economic sector was still tied to the land and the majority of agriculture continued to be carried out on the subsistence level by numerous small family farms, even though the distribution of land among the population was far from equal. Primary crops were grains, mostly barley but also some wheat, which were usually sown on a tw…
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Labor

  • It is notoriously difficult to estimate the population of Athens or any other Greek city-state in ancient times. Generally accepted figures for Athens at the height of its power and prosperity in 431 B.C., though, are in the range of approximately 305,000 people, of which perhaps 160,000 were citizens (40,000 male, 40,000 female, 80,000 children), 25,000 were free resident foreigner…
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Manufacturing

  • Slavery also affected manufacturing in ancient Greece. It is often said that technology and industrial organization stagnated in ancient Greece because the availability of cheap slave labor obviated any imminent need to improve them. If one wanted to produce more, one merely bought a few more slaves. Thus, most manufactured products were literally hand-made with simple tool…
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