Economy of ancient Greece – ancient Greek trade, fishing, and farming

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A Greek man doing carpentry (Athens, 400s BC): economy of ancient Greece

The economy of ancient Greece: A Greek man doing carpentry (Athens, 400s BC)

The Greeks did not have the same idea of an economy that we have. The word “economy” is Greek, but to the Greeks it meant something like “rules of a household” (the “eco” part of economy is from the Greek word for house, oikos, and the “nomy” part is from their word for law). So the economy was the way a household ran, and also the way a city-state ran.

A man making shoes for a little boy: ancient Greek economy

A man making shoes for a little boy

 

Sailing and the Greek economy

Even as far back as the Stone Age, many Greeks were sailors, and sailed all over the Eastern Mediterranean. Like many other sailors in other places and times (like the Vikings for example), Greek sailors found a lot of different ways to make their living from sailing. Some of them were fishermen, and ate some fish and sold some in markets. Some were pearl-divers. Other Greeks were traders, who bought things at one port and sold them at another port, and made some profit for themselves along the way. Many Greek people made things for the traders to sell: wool cloth, wine, perfume, and fancy pottery. Other Greeks were soldiers for their city-state, who conquered other cities and forced them to pay tribute. Many Greek sailors worked as mercenaries, hiring out themselves and their ships to fight for other countries like Egypt.

Ancient Greek trade: A wool workshop in Archaic Greece: women making woolen cloth to sell: Ancient Greek trade

Ancient Greek trade: A wool workshop in Archaic Greece: women making woolen cloth to sell.

Pirates, raiding, and ancient Greek trade

Other Greeks were pirates, who simply raided wherever they could and took whatever they could get. In real life, people probably didn’t fit so neatly into any of these categories. Pirates sometimes traded, and sometimes fished, and sometimes hired themselves out as mercenaries. Ancient Greek traders were not above doing a little raiding if they got the chance. For soldiers, the difference between fighting and raiding is not always very clear.

Women pounding wheat or barley into flour: Ancient Greek economy

Women pounding wheat or barley into flour

Women spinning and weaving cloth

One reason for raiding was to capture women as prisoners of war. Like other people – like the Assyrians or the Egyptians or the Persians – Greek rulers enslaved thousands of women to work in giant weaving workshops, spinning and weaving expensive wool cloth that traders could carry on their boats and sell. These women were very important to the economy of ancient Greece.

Farming and the economy of ancient Greece

But, like everywhere in antiquity, many Greek men and women were also farmers, who spent most of their day growing food – planting wheat, harvesting olives, and weeding their gardens.

Did you find out what you wanted to know about the economy of ancient Greece? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: making Greek coins
More about the Archaic Greek economy

Bibliography and further reading about the Greek economy:

Trade & Warfare, by Robert Hull (2000).

Ancient Greek Jobs (People in the Past Series-Greece), by Haydn Middleton (2002). Easy reading.

The Ancient Economy by Walter Scheidel, Sitta Von Reden (2002). A collection of essays by different specialists, but written for the non-specialist.

Economy and Society in Ancient Greece, by Moses Finley (revised edition 1983)

Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece: An Introduction by M.M. Austin and P. Vidal-Naquet (1980)

The Ancient Economy, by Moses Finley (1973, revised edition 1999). This has been the starting point for academic discussions of the Greek and Roman economy since it first came out thirty years ago.

More about the Archaic Greek economy
More about Ancient Greece
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By | 2018-01-04T14:57:43+00:00 July 6th, 2017|Economy, Greeks|45 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Economy of ancient Greece – ancient Greek trade, fishing, and farming. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 6, 2017. Web. February 22, 2018.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

45 Comments

  1. lilac pumperknickle February 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    this told me nothing I’m upset.

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr February 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      Sorry to hear it, Lilac! What were you trying to find out?

    • James February 13, 2018 at 5:57 am

      You should be nice she took her time to make this

  2. dex February 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    thx really good info

  3. spencer February 12, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    hi

  4. James February 12, 2018 at 7:44 am - Reply

    This information is great, I am very grateful for your time to make this, it is a great advantage for school work, THANK YOU! 😀😁😄

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr February 12, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      Wow, that’s very kind of you, James!

  5. Heidi February 8, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Good Info!

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr February 8, 2018 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, Heidi!

  6. trey February 8, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    this is a great resource thanks for taking the time to make it. 🙂

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr February 8, 2018 at 10:26 am

      Thank you, Trey!

  7. Luke February 6, 2018 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Thank you, this info is very helpful. I am about to take the test (finally)

  8. luke February 2, 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

    This was very helpful info for the test i hope i pass

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr February 2, 2018 at 10:30 pm

      I hope so too, Luke!

  9. andrew January 29, 2018 at 9:03 am - Reply

    hi

  10. lola January 26, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    hola

  11. xxbluebabyswagxx January 25, 2018 at 10:42 am - Reply

    thx for the info i am working on my test and do u be here all day

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 25, 2018 at 10:54 am

      More or less; I am also teaching classes etc., but I usually answer pretty quickly.

  12. Isaac January 23, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks a bunch phew

  13. jay January 22, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Thank you for giving me info because i was studying for a test and i passed

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 22, 2018 at 11:06 am

      You’re welcome! I’m glad we could help.

    • leora January 22, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      great info!

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 22, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      thanks!

  14. Isaiah January 19, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Great Amazing Info on this website!

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 19, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks! That’s nice to hear.

  15. john January 18, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

    hi

  16. James January 17, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    its great and amazing info

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 17, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you!

  17. jeff January 16, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    thank

  18. jeff January 12, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    hi

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Jeff! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. tony January 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    i need more info please and thank you
    and i am a kid for real

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 8, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Tony! What were you trying to find out? I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

  20. kaleigh January 4, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    i love your story and thanks for the info but how did you know all that

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr January 4, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Mostly I know it from reading the books that are listed in the bibliography, and many other books like that. Some of it I know from digging up archaeological sites myself, and seeing what we found for myself.

  21. emma December 22, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

    thanks for the info

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr December 22, 2017 at 9:16 am

      You’re welcome!

  22. SUMMERUNICORN December 14, 2017 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Very helpful thx

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr December 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

      You’re welcome! I’m delighted to hear it.

  23. . December 13, 2017 at 10:48 am - Reply

    needs more info

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr December 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Sorry! Ask your questions here and I’ll be happy to answer them.

  24. lol December 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    .lol

  25. Anessa December 11, 2017 at 7:31 am - Reply

    this is to long

    • Karen Carr
      Karen Carr December 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Sorry to hear it! What do you think I should take out?

    • kaleigh January 4, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      it is not to long is is just the right amount

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