The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Commerce (continued)



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 DelSs enjoyed a brief but brilliant period of pros­perity. Among the commercial cities of the Grseco-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, Pantlcapeeum, 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 Phosnicia. 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 bar-

barians 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

j 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

i 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 manxifactures 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, gener-

About | First | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.