Transportation and Exchange of Goods and Services

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Transportation and Exchange of Goods and Services

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Raw Materials. Much of the activity that can be described as trade in the Archaic Period (700-480 b.c.e.) consisted in the movement of raw materials, such as marble, metals of various kinds, and finished objects made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Archaeological research has established a fairly wide distribution of these commodities, meaning that there existed an extensive maritime network in the Greek world. The transport of marble from various quarries in particular implies the presence of ships capable of carrying heavy cargo. Such vessels made their appearance in the second half of the sixth century, replacing the lighter warships that had been used earlier because of the danger of losing valuable cargoes to pirates.

Travels. The merchantmen were owned by independent shipmasters whose travels took them to Etruria (presentday Tuscany), Cyrenaica in North Africa, Egypt, and the Spanish coast west of Gibraltar. Generally the traders were citizens of their city-states; occasionally they were aristocrats. Some of them made a great deal of money from maritime trade; Sostratus of Aegina and several merchant captains from the island of Samos amassed large fortunes.

Skilled Workers. The stone, chiefly marble, intended for construction was not shipped in its rough state; stone masons dressed it into nearly finished building blocks in the quarries where it was found, before it was transported to the construction sites. Like the stonemasons and the metalworkers on Ischia and elsewhere, sculptors, too, did much of their work in the quarries. They then traveled to the places where public buildings were being built and readied the sites to receive the sculptural decoration that they were creating. Archaeologists have found unfinished statues and half-hewn building blocks in several ancient quarries. There are recorded instances of Creten sculptors at Tegea, while Corinthians worked in Etruria and Athenians in Ionia. To earn their living architects also traveled

to the sites of construction. The architect who designed the sixth-century temple of Apollo at Delphi almost certainly came from a place other than Delphi. One of the sculptors who fashioned some of the statuary in the temple certainly did: he was an Athenian named Antenor. Most Greek states gave money for the building of the temple; the noted Athenian family of the Alcmaeonids paid for the marble plates from the island of Paros that covered the frontal facade. The transport of the plates must have been not only difficult but expensive as well, in view of the location of Delphi in the mountains high above sea level.

Impact. All these activities, smelting and forging, quarrying, producing sculpture and pottery, erecting large edifices, and building ships, had a certain impact on the overall economy of Greece and its colonies. Laborers, semi-skilled workers, specialized craftsmen, architects, and artists were paid in some form, and they spent to support themselves. The wealthy traders and shipowners also spent. However, the effect that production, commerce, and transportation had on the Archaic Greek economy as a whole was only moderate.

Friendship and Gifts. Moderate, too, was the impact of a well-developed system of exchanging goods and services by both individuals and small enterprises such as farms. A special form of the exchange of services was the so-called guest-friendship, an arrangement whereby individual persons entered into an agreement of reciprocal hospitality, which made commercial travel possible in a time without hotels and restaurants. A network of gift-exchanges was also developed, examples of which are present in the epic poems of Homer. Both private persons and heads of government exchanged gifts with each other, although it was only the wealthier in both categories who could afford gifts of economic importance. Gifts from statesmen or kings to the sanctuaries of the major gods did have such a significance.

Source

Anthony M. Snodgrass, Archaic Greece: The Age of Experiment (London: Dent, 1980).

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Transportation and Exchange of Goods and Services

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