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Article

Dominic W. Rathbone

In the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, centred as they were on the Mediterranean, maritime transport was far more practical than land transport for long- and even medium-distance trade. Most ships seem to have been of medium size (around 70 tonnes burden) and to have been owned and run by a shipper who both carried goods as freight and traded on his own account. There were also many individual merchants who hired shipping as needed for their ventures. Then as now, the major expense in trading was the investment in purchasing goods; roughly, one cargo of wheat was worth as much as the ship. Hence a merchant, whether or not also a shipowner, often needed third-party finance, for which, because of the peculiar risks involved, a special type of loan was used. This was the maritime loan—nautikon daneion in Greek, nauticum faenus or mutua pecunia nautica in Latin.The maritime loan is first attested in 4th-century bce Athens, in four speeches attributed to Demosthenes, of which the most informative is the prosecution of the brother of a pair of merchants for fraudulent default on a loan (Dem.

Article

Dominic W. Rathbone

The “Muziris” papyrus (PVindob. G40822) provides unique details about the trade between Roman Egypt and India. It was purchased in 1980 for the Austrian National Library, and first published in 1985, and has been much discussed since then.1 Its provenance is unknown, but was probably middle Egypt. It preserves parts of two texts, one on its front (recto) and one on its back (verso), written in two different hands which have both been assigned to the middle decades of the 2nd century ce.The first text is part of a contract, from near the contract’s end, between a merchant (“I” in the text) and a financier (“you”), who was apparently based in Alexandria; this contract accompanied a separate contract between them for a maritime loan “to Muziris.”2 Muziris was a port in the Malabar region of soutwest India (Kerala), which Periplus of the Red Sea, ch.56, from the mid-1st-century ce, says was visited by large ships from Egypt to acquire pepper and malabathrum (a cinnamon-like plant, whose leaves were pressed to make a perfume), and also pearls, ivory, silk, nard, and gemstones.

Article

David Tandy

The single Greek word for market, agora, did not originally refer to a place for exchange; rather, it was a place for the gathering of chattel (as early as Linear B, e.g., Knossos Co 903) and of people. In Homer, the agora is strictly a place of gathering for political action, including military muster. The heroes in epic do not buy and sell; there are no regular markets for the acquisition of food and other necessary things. Heroes take what they want from neighbouring communities by raids. On the fringes of the narratives, however, Homer reveals the presence of one-time or spot markets, most clearly at Iliad 7.467ff.:

Many ships from Lemnos filled with wine lay at anchor, which Jason’s son Euneos had sent … On the side Jason’s son gave the Atreidae Agamamnon and Menelaos a thousand measures of wine to carry off. There the flowing-haired Achaeans got wine, some with skins, others with whole cows, others with spear-captives. And they threw themselves a jolly feast.

Article

Janet DeLaine

Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill, 36 m. (118 ft.) high and covering roughly 22,000 sq. m. (26,300 sq. yds.), in the Emporium district of Rome south of the *Aventine near the *Tiber. It is composed entirely of broken *amphorae dating from the 1st to the mid-3rd century ce, mostly oil amphorae from *Baetica in Spain with a smaller amount from North Africa, analysis of which has contributed to debate on the Roman economy.

Article

Claire Holleran

Almost all inhabitants of the ancient world were dependent to varying degrees on retailers to supply them with at least some food items, raw materials, or manufactured goods, and this was particularly true of urban inhabitants. While the amount of built commercial space increased in the Hellenistic period and was a particular feature of Roman urban centres, we cannot trace a simple linear development from periodic markets through to permanent shops. Instead the retail trade remained varied throughout antiquity, consisting of periodic and permanent markets, shops and workshops, and street stalls and ambulant hawkers, all of which performed complementary roles within an integrated network of distribution. The size of the local market, however, inevitably had an impact on the organisation of the retail trade, with increased specialisation and clustering of trades possible in larger urban centres, where a wider range of products was typically available to the consumer and capital investment in dedicated commercial space was encouraged by the level of demand for goods. Ancient shopping was an immersive and interactive experience. Prices fluctuated in response to market pressures and were very often arrived at through haggling and bargaining. Markets, shops, and streets were as much places of social interaction as they were of shopping, and men and women mixed freely as both buyers and sellers. Advertising and marketing may have been rudimentary, but the attempts by retailers to maximise sales contributed to the colorful and vibrant nature of the ancient commercial environment; the open doorways of shops and workshops facilitated interaction between those inside and outside, and goods, sellers, and customers often spilled out onto the street, while painted notices and signs displayed goods for sale, and the distinctive shouts of sellers competed loudly for the attention of potential customers.

Article

Koenraad Verboven

Voluntary associations are attested already in early republican times, but they became important especially during the late Republic. Their role in street politics in the 1st century bce led to a general ban and lasting imperial apprehension. Yet by the mid-2nd century ce, important collegia were an essential part of urban public life, participating in processions and ceremonies and having reserved seats in (amphi)theatres. The three central activities of all associations were shared dinners, religious cults, and funerary practices. Religious (and) neighbourhood-based collegia prevailed during the Republic. Professional associations became more important during the Principate as authorities began to use them to facilitate and supervise public works and provisions (particularly for the annona), and for levying taxes. Some collegia received privileges and had extensive funds and property. Professional collegia continued to be important at least until early Byzantine times. Imperial control intensified in late antiquity, but the overall legal framework hardly changed.

Article

Alain Bresson

The agoranomoi were the magistrates who, in the Greek cities, were in charge of policing and organizing the market. Their role was to make sure that transactions were conducted according to the laws of market, which primarily meant preventing cheating on the quality of the goods offered for sale and on the weights and measures used by sellers. Their tasks could also include watching over the nature and quality of the coins used as means of exchange. They were in charge of monitoring prices and, in some cases, they set prices of goods—some basic foodstuffs like fish or meat. They also had to make sure that the market supply of essential goods remained adequate. The number of agoranomoi decreased in the late Hellenistic period (in Athens, from ten in the Classical period to only two). Late Hellenistic and Roman period magistrates belonged to the well-to-do stratum of the population in the cities, and the agoranomoi were no exception.

Article

Jean Andreau

An auction is a type of sale consisting of a public competition between several buyers; whoever bids the highest price obtains the object being sold. Such auctions existed in the Greek as well as in the Roman world. Some were organized by the public authorities, while others were organized by individuals selling some of their goods at auction. In Roman Italy, these private auctions served a commercial function. In addition, they facilitated the sale of guarantees for unrepaid loans; likewise, they facilitated the management of private inheritance and estates. Between the 2nd century bce and the 3rd century ce, professional bankers regularly participated in these private auctions by providing credit to the buyers.An auction is a procedure consisting of a public competition between several potential buyers. It was a common practice in Greco-Roman antiquity. The object being sold was awarded to the highest bidder, and he alone paid the object’s full price to the seller. Scholars do not know when auctions first began. They are well attested in the Classical Greek period, as well as in the Hellenistic world and in Rome. In Roman Italy, Plautus and Cato the Elder (in .

Article

Duane W. Roller

Exploration in antiquity was largely the result of commercial or military endeavours, rather than any pure quest for knowledge or scholarship. Nevertheless, from the first efforts of Greeks to move beyond the Greek heartland into the Black Sea and western Mediterranean, which began as early as the end of the Bronze Age, Greeks and Romans steadily explored around and beyond their world. By the late Roman period, almost all of the Eastern Hemisphere was known, with the exception of interior southern Africa and the far northeastern portions of Asia, and it was suggested that there might be other continents across the ocean. Despite an emphasis on trade and commercial contacts, there was also an increase in scientific and other scholarly knowledge. The beginnings of Greek exploration are apparent in the Odyssey of Homer and may go back to the latter part of the Bronze Age. By the latter 7th century bce, Greeks were moving outside of the Mediterranean to the Phoenician (later Carthaginian) trading cities such as Gadeira on the Atlantic. With the rise of the Persians, they began to learn about what lay to their east, and Alexander the Great created awareness of a world stretching as far as India. At the same time, Pytheas of Massalia explored the northern Atlantic as far as Iceland. The discipline of geography was invented by Eratosthenes of Cyrene in the latter 3rd century bce, and in the following century the explorer Polybius reached the Equator. Roman military operations in the north of Europe and the British Isles and trade journeys into central Africa meant those regions were brought into the sphere of knowledge of the Mediterranean world. Realization that the inhabited world, however vast, was only a small part of the total surface of the Earth led to theorization about other lands across the ocean, but there is no solid evidence that anyone from the ancient Mediterranean reached them and was able to report on them. By the latter 1st century bce traders became aware of Southeast Asia and China, and there were occasional contacts during the Roman period, but by the 2nd century ce the era of ancient exploration was at an end, and there was little further expansion of geographical knowledge until the Islamic period.