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COMMERCE
Greece. In the Homeric poems the Greeks are not represented as a people with a spontaneous inclination to commerce. Indeed, the position of the oldest Greek cities, far away from the sea, sufficiently shows that their founders can have had no idea of trade as a means of getting wealth. Greek navigation in ancient times was almost exclusively subservient to war and piracy, to which, for a long time, no stigma was attached in public opinion. And the trade carried on with Greece by the Asiatics, especially the Phoenicians, who then ruled the Greek seas, can hardly have been very active. The Greeks, having no agricultural or industrial produce to offer, could not have tempted many foreigners to deal with them. But in the centuries succeeding the Homeric age, the commerce of Greece was revolutionized. The islands, especially Aegina and Euboea, were foremost in commercial undertakings; the only continental town which was at all successful in this way being Corinth, which was favoured by its incomparable position. It was the foundation of the Hellenic colonies in Asia Minor that first occasioned the free development of Greek trade. The exertions of the Ionians were mainly instrumental in creating two things indispensable to its success, namely, commercial activity, excited by contact with the ancient industries of the East, and a maritime power in the proper sense, which made it possible to oust the Phoenicians from the naval supremacy which they had so long maintained. This new commercial activity necessitated a larger use of the precious metals, and the establishment of a gold and silver coinage, which the Ionians were the first among the Greeks to adopt. This proved a powerful stimulus to the development of commerce, or rather it was the very condition of its existence. Miletus took the first place among the trading colonies. The influence of these cities upon their mother country was so strong that even the Dorians gradually lost their national and characteristic dislike of trade and commerce, and threw themselves actively into their pursuit. Down to the 6th century B.C., Greek commerce had extended itself to the coasts of the Mediterranean and the inland seas connected with it, especially towards the East. It was not until a later time that Athens joined the circle of commercial cities. Even in Solon's time the Athenians had lived mainly by agriculture and cattle-breeding, and it was only with the growth of the democratic constitution that their commercial intercourse with the other cities became at all considerable. The Persian wars, and her position as head of the naval confederacy, raised Athens to the position of the first maritime power in Greece. Under the administration of Pericles she became the centre of all Hellenic activity, not only in art and science, but in trade. It was only Corinth and Corcyra whose western trade enabled them to maintain a prominent position by the side of Athens. The Greeks of Asia Minor completely lost their commercial position after their conquest by the Persians. The naval supremacy of Athens, and with it its commerce, was completely annihilated by the Peloponnesian war. It was a long time before the Athenians succeeded in breaking down the maritime power of Sparta which that war had established. Having done so, they recovered, but only for a short time, a position of prominence not at all equal to their former supremacy by sea. The victory of the Macedonian power entirely destroyed the political and commercial importance of Athens, whose trade now fell behind that of other cities. The place of Athens, as the first maritime and commercial power, was taken by the city of Rhodes, founded in 408 B.C. By the second half of the 4th century B.C. the trade of Rhodes had extended itself over the whole known world, and its maritime law was universally observed until a much later period. After the destruction of Corinth in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. the island of Delos enjoyed a brief but brilliant period of prosperity. Among the commercial cities of the Graeco-Macedonian empire, Alexandria in Egypt took the first place, and rose indeed to be the centre of European and Eastern trade. It was mainly through Alexandria that intercourse was kept up between Greece and the Eastern countries opened up by the campaigns of Alexander the Great. One of the most important routes followed by Grecian traffic was that leading to the Black Sea, the coasts of which were fringed with Greek colonies. Besides Byzantium and Sinope, the chief commercial centres in this region were Olbia, Panticapaeum, Phanagoria, and Phasis, from which trade-routes penetrated far into the barbarian countries of the interior. Other main routes led by Chios and Lesbos to the coasts of Asia Minor and by the Cyclades to that part of the Asiatic coast where lay the great cities of Samos, Ephesus, and Miletus. Hence they continued to Egypt and Cyrene, by Rhodes and Cyprus and the coast of Phoenicia. But in travelling to these parts from the Peloponnesus, they generally sailed by way of Crete, which had been long celebrated for its maritime enterprise. Round the promontory of Malea, the southernmost point of the Peloponnese, and by Corcyra, they sailed northwards to the coasts of the Adriatic, or westward to Italy and Sicily Regular traffic beyond Sicily was rendered impossible by the jealousy of the Carthaginians and Etruscans, who were masters of the commerce in this region, and whose place was afterwards taken there by the Romans. A considerable land-traffic was carried on by the colonies with barbarians of the interior. But in Greece, Proper the mountainous nature of the country and the absence of navigable rivers were unfavourable to communication by land, and the land-traffic accordingly was entirely thrown into the shade by the maritime trade. The only opportunity for commerce by land on a large scale was afforded by the great national festivals, which brought together great crowds of people from every part of Greece, and secured them a safe conduct (see EKECHEIRIA). In this way these festivals exactly corresponded to our trade fairs. The exports of Greece consisted mainly in wine, oil, and manufactured goods, especially pottery and metal wares. The imports included the necessaries of life, of which Greece itself, with its dense population, artificially increased by slavery, did not produce a sufficient quantity. The staple was wheat, which was imported in large quantities from the coasts of the Black Sea, Egypt, and Sicily. Next came wood for houses and for ships, and raw materials of all kind for manufacture. The foreign manufactures imported were mostly objects of luxury. Finally we should mention the large number of imported slaves. Comparing the circumstances of the ancient Greek maritime commerce with those of modern trade, we may observe that the ancients were much hampered by having no commission agencies and no system of exchange. The proprietor of the cargo sailed with it, or sent a representative with full powers. No transaction was carried on without payment in ready money, which was often rendered difficult by the existence of different systems of coinage. With uncivilized tribes, notably those on the Black Sea, a system of barter long maintained itself. As no goods could be bought without cash payments, and men of property generally preferred to lend out their capital to borrowers at high interest, a system of bottomry was extensively developed in Greek maritime trade. The creditor usually took care in lending the capital necessary for loading the ship, to secure a lien on the ship, or the cargo, or both. With this he undertook the risks of the business, charging interest at a very high rate, generally 20 to 30 per cent. The written contract contained other specifications as to the ship and the rate of interest, for the breach of which certain customary penalties were fixed. These had reference to the destination of the ship, and, generally speaking, to the route and the time to be occupied, to the character and value of the wares, and to the repayment of the loan; the latter to determine whether it should be made on the ship's arriving at its destination, or on its return home. In the first case the creditor would often sail with the ship, if he had no representative on the spot or at the port for which she was bound. At Athens, and no doubt in other cities, the interests of the creditor were protected by a strict code of laws. Fraudulent appropriation of a deposit was punishable with death; dilatoriness in payment with imprisonment. The creditor was allowed to seize not only the security, but the whole property of the debtor. In other respects Athenian legislation secured several advantages to traders, Commercial cases only came before the law courts in winter, when navigation was impossible, and they had to be decided within a month. In ordinary cases of debt the creditor could only seize on the debtor's property; but in commercial cases he was liable to e imprisoned if condemned to payment. In other matters aliens had to be represented in court by a citizen; in commercial cases they could appear in person. It was the duty of the Thesmothetae to see to the preparation of these cases. The trial was carried on and the verdict given by a special tribunal, the Nautodicae (see NAUTODICAe). Merchants could easily obtain the considerable privilege of exemption from military service, though they were not legally entitled to it. In general it may be said that the Greek states, in consideration of the importance of trade, went very far in providing for its interests. They did their best to secure its safety and independence by force of arms, and concluded treaties with the same end in view. This is especially true of those agreements which regulated the legal relations of the citizens of the two states in their intercourse with each other, and prescribed the forms to be observed by the citizens of one state when bringing suits against those of another. The institution of proxeni, corresponding to that of the modern consuls, was of immense benefit to the trading community. The Greek governments did a great deal in the way of constructing harbours, warehouses, and buildings for exchange in the neighbourhood of the harbours. The superintendence of the harbour traffic, like that of the market traffic, was entrusted to special government officials; in Athens, for instance, to the ten overseers of the Emporium (see AGORANOMI). The Athenians had also a special board, called metronomi, to see that the weights and measures were correct. It was only in exceptional cases that the freedom of trade was interfered with by monopolies, nor was it usual to lay prohibitions upon imports. Prohibitions of exportation were, however, much commoner. In many states, as e.g. in Macedonia, it was forbidden to export building materials, especially wood for ship-building; and no grain might be exported from Attica. Again, no Athenian merchant was permitted to carry corn to any harbour but that of Athens; no citizen or resident alien could lend money on the security of ships carrying corn to any place but Athens. Even foreigners who came with corn into the harbour of Athens were compelled to deposit two-thirds of it for sale there. To prevent excessive profits being realized in the corn trade, it was made a capital offense for any private citizen to, buy up more than 50 bushels at a time, or sell it at a profit of more than an obolos a bushel. The corn trade was under the superintendence of a board called sitophylakes. In the prevailing activity of commerce, the tolls on exports and imports were a plentiful source of revenue to the Greek government. In Greek society petty trading was thought a vulgar and sordid pursuit, and was left to the poorer citizens and resident aliens. In Athens the class of resident aliens included a great number of the larger dealers; for the wealthier and more respectable citizens liked lending their capital to others engaged in trade better than engaging in trade themselves. Italy. In Italy an active commerce was early carried on at sea by the Etruscans, the other Italian peoples taking only a passive part in it. But Rome, from a very early time, became the commercial centre of Middle Italy. It was situated on a river deep enough to admit large vessels, the upper course and tributaries of which were also navigable. Its position was much improved by the harbour at the colony of Ostia, said to have been constructed under king Ancus Martius. So long as the Etruscans and Carthaginians and (as in later times) the Greek cities of Southern Italy and Sicily, like Tarentum and Syracuse, ruled the sea, the maritime power and commerce of Rome were restricted within very narrow limits. Even as late as the middle of the 4th century B.C. the traffic of Rome was confined to Sardinia, Sicily and Africa. But, with the extension of the Roman power, Roman commerce assumed wider dimensions. At the end of the republican period Roman ships were on every sea, and there was a flourishing interior trade in Italy and all the provinces. Wherever there was a navigable river it was used for communication with the happiest results. After the second Punic War, Rome gradually acquired the character of a great commercial city, where the products of the whole world, natural and industrial, found a market. The most considerable import was corn, and this at all periods of Roman history (see ANNONA). The chief exports of Italy were wine and oil, to which we must add, after the development of Italian industry, manufactured goods. The trading harbour of Rome was Puteoli (Pozzuoli), on the Bay of Naples, while Ostia was used mainly by corn-ships. Petty dealing was regarded unfavourably by the Romans as by the Greeks; but trade on a large scale was thought quite respectable, though in older times members of the senate were not allowed to engage in it. Most of the larger undertakings at Rome were in the bands of joint-stock companies (see PUBLICANI), the existence of which made it possible for small capitalists to share in the profits and risks of commerce. It was indeed an old maxim of business men at Rome that it was better to have small shares in a number of speculations than to speculate independently. The corn trade, in particular, was in the hands of these companies. The government allowed them to transport corn from Sardinia, Sicily, Spain, Africa, and Egypt to Rome; whole fleets of vessels, constructed for the purpose, being appointed to this service. Foreign trade was subjected to a number of restrictions. The exportation of certain products was absolutely prohibited; for instance, iron, whether unwrought or manufactured, arms, coin, salt, and gold; and duties were levied on all imports. There were also numerous restrictions on trade in the interior, as each province formed a unit of taxation, in which toll had to be paid on entering or leaving it. Among the state monopolies, the most important was that of salt.
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PLACE HOLDER FOR COUNTER
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