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Stephanie Dalley

Cotton is first attested from excavations in the Indus valley for the early second millennium bce; cotton plants were imported into *Assyria by Sennacheribc.700 bce, who attempted to grow them at *Nineveh. Herodotus 3. 106 mentions cotton as an Indian crop. It spread during Hellenistic times into *Ethiopia, *Nubia and Upper *Egypt, and perhaps later into Indo-China. Early fibres seem to come from the tree Gossipium arboreum rather than the bush Gossipium herbaceum. The word cotton may perhaps be derived from West Semitic ktn, at first ‘tunic’ in general, later the linen tunic worn by priests. A connection with the early Akkadian textile or garment kutinnu is doubtful.



Hector Catling

Cyprus, third largest Mediterranean island (9,282 sq. km.: 3,584 sq. mi.) was of strategic and economic importance to the Mediterranean and near eastern powers, and significant both to their relations with western Asia and with one another. It is vulnerable to the power politics of its neighbours, by one or other of whom it has often been occupied or governed, and whose mutual conflicts have sometimes been fought out on its soil or its seas. Though mountainous (the highest points on its Troödos and Kyrenia ranges are 1,951 and 1,023 m. (6,403 and 3,357 ft.) respectively), its central plain (Mesaoria) is fertile, while its extensive piedmont and river-valley systems are suited to crop and animal husbandry. The island suffers intermittently from serious seismic disturbance. Rainfall is uncertain, drought endemic, and fertility dramatically responsive to irrigation capacity. Copper ore, chiefly located in the Troödos foothills at the junction of igneous and sedimentary deposits, has been exploited since prehistory. Timber resources played a major role in the region's naval history.


John Weisweiler

The just distribution of social goods was fiercely debated in the ancient Mediterranean and the ideologies of egalitarianism and inegalitarianism developed in Rome and Athens shaped Euro-American political thought from the Enlightenment onward. By contrast, the study of actual income and wealth distributions in ancient societies is a more recent development. Only in the early 21st century have scholars begun to make systematic attempts to quantify levels of inequality in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Since we lack the documentary sources on which the study of inequality in contemporary economies is based, most of these reconstructions rely on a combination of modelling and the interpretation of isolated figures found in literary texts. This fragmentary evidence suggests that in the best-attested regions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East inequality was considerable. In particular, the formation of large territorial states—most notably the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Rome—facilitated the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. But it is unclear whether inequality increased over time. At least, there is no unambiguous evidence that wealth and income were more unequally distributed in late antiquity than in earlier periods of Roman history.