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Essay/Term paper: The business life of ancient athens

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The Business Life of Ancient Athens


The Business Life of Ancient Athens is an informative book about
different aspects of Ancient businesses and Ancient ways of dealing with money.
This book first starts out by explaining the agricultural aspects of Ancient
Athens. Agriculture was not well for Athens, so they had to trade a lot. It is
recorded as early as the 6th century BC that grain was a very big part of an
average Athenian's diet. Therefore; much grain trade was necessary because
Greece land was very bad for agricultural purposes. Athens had grown
industrially and commercially within time, and this was also a problem:
overpopulation. Also, many Spartan tribes over and over attacked Greece and
destroyed any crops that might grow in the soil. Peasants were also sent to
work at farms but they lost care in their farms and found it better to live in
the city, living off small amounts of money that came from doing state services.
During this time, many people learned ways of math because they needed to know
how much grain is needed per person. Although these calculations are not
totally accurate, they are a start in banking and maybe even other ways of
mathematics. The Peloponnesian War also occurred- leaving Greece(Attica) with
nothing. Attica was forced by famine to go under Peloponnesian rule. By now,
trade had come in an uproar. Many people had found it easy to trade by sea. So
many merchants with not enough money would borrow money from rich people and
then buy cargo space on a ship. In most cases the merchant went on the ship to
get the goods to sell. Then on returning, the merchant would sell the goods,
and then pay off the lender, with a 22.5 percent interest rate. In many cases,
problems occurred, sometimes a merchant returned late, could not pay all of the
money back, or something or other. Therefore the idea of a collateral was
invented. Also, courts were established to rule these sorts of fights amongst
the people. These courts weren't used in the winter because of stormy weather
and so not to interrupt commercial business. Courts were required to solve a
case within 30 days, this procedure only applies to cases where and actual legal
documented agreement was made between the lender and the merchant. Many
merchants did not return, therefore the collateral was the lender's to keep.
But often the merchant didn't have anything good to start with so many lenders
lost money.
Next, the book talked about Banking and Bankers. Early banking dates
back all the way to Sumer and Akkad where many specialized in weighing things
and telling of precious metals. Banking was first found where coinage started,
in the middle of Asia Minor, around the 7th century BC. Coinage was also thought
to have started with Minoans, but they are not sure. It is thought that the
idea of banking may have started with the priests of Sumer and Akkad, priests
were always the "bankers" of temples and organizer of the money. The Greeks
took the information from these past priests and formed a banking system that
consisted monetary transactions. And they concentrated in dealing with strictly
money and giving out money. The Romans took this idea further and made what is
similar to modern 1980's bank situations(banking has progressed in the last
decade). With banking, the Greeks learned frugal manner and ways of living with
money, and not bartering.
Lastly, this book speaks about Mining in Ancient Athens. Around 500 BC.
Mining was introduced in Athens. If the ways of the mining business had not
come, Athens would have probably lost an oncoming war with the Persians, but
because of the mining, many new people joined Athens and Persia decided not to
invade. They feared it because it had become much greater in strength. If
mining had not come, there would have been no Athenian Empire, or an Age of
Pericles. So, in the scabrous hills of Laurium, silver struck. Everyone was
fascinated with this new idea. In present day Laurium, you can still see the
remains of the mining and see everything. Many things were not found out about
the mining, because not too many records were kept. But many modern engineers
and archaeologists have looked into the land of Laurium and have found remains
of apparatus, and from analyzation of cinder collections. However, it is not
known how silver was extracted from the stones, how they were crushed and how
they eventually made silver objects from the mined silver. The history of this
can not be reconstructed.
The way this author approaches this topic is in a supportive way. He is
very Greek favoring and states many comments about how many people do NOT give
the early Greek people the credit they deserve. For instance on page 82 the
author states……"many students of economic history have not yet given Greek
banking the attention it deserves [in banking]. " and the author proceeds in
telling of all the wonderful things the Greeks have done about banking and how
the Romans merely just watched the early Greeks. The author also thinks of the
mining industry as wonderful. He explained it in such an exciting manner .
As a result of reading this book, I have formed many new opinions. For
example, I never knew that business started as early as it did[in the manner of
banking]. I figured that banking probably didn't come until at least a couple
of centuries after Christ. Also, I learned about mining and all the things that
were involved with it. Here again I was surprised that it had started so early.
My outlook on the business filed has changed. I thought that all these business
people were so great to come up with all these ideas, but they are truly just
taking the basics of early history in business and applying it to modern ways.
I think the author's purpose of writing this book was to make me
confused! No, I really think that the purpose of writing this book was to
inform people of the ways of early business life, and the way our ancestors were
dealing with the business industry back then. Also, it was a way to carry on
history even further, to state the facts for people even farther down the road
of the world.
The author did not try to persuade the reader in any way, although he did
favor the Greeks a lot. He[the author] did, however, compare and contrast
almost all of the situations with the modern world.
I think that the author succeeded in his purpose in that he wanted to get
the Greek side of the story out, and also tell a lot of facts too. He kept on,
over and over, telling what the Greeks did that others took the credit for. For
example, when talking about coinage, he said that the Lydians were the founder
of coins. But he left a trace saying that the Greeks too, had knowledge of
coins, but the Lydians developed it faster than them. The author repeatedly
stated facts about the Ancient Businesses, telling of how courts developed, how
they ran, how they were maintained, how they were functioning. And he did this
similarly to almost all the subjects he touched upon like Mining, Banking,
Agriculture, Trade, the course of economic evolution.
All in all my opinion of this book is good. I wished at most times that it
wasn't so factual and the author also used a number of hard to comprehend ways
of saying things. The part of the book that I found the most interesting is
the part about the Grain Trade. The Early Athenians had such a need for grains
and they could not get it so they eventually had to surrender to the
Peloponnesians, which they DID fight and went through months of famine. And I
also enjoyed the part of the book that talked about early banking. I was very
surprised that banking started so early. I think that by reading this book, I
learned many things, and it helped me better my knowledge of history.

 

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