Rise and Fall of Athenian Greatness
the largest polis in the Greek world
. Its population rose to about 300,000
at its height about
. About half of these were citizens and their families. At
least 100,000 were slaves. The rest were foreigners--traders who had to be registered
with citizen sponsor.
Rise of Athens
The economy of Athens was based upon
farming, manufacturing and trade.
and other cities derived much of their wealth in the
of woolen goods, wheat, olive
oil, grapes and wine throughout the Greek Mediterranean world
. Athenians also
manufactured metal goods, including weapons,
and also pottery which used for the
home or to transport olive oil and other goods from city to city. Where there is trade,
there is the need for shipbuilding and finances. Athens
became a center for financial
business--loans and investment, etc
. Athens was also enriched by large silver mines in
its territory which was worked by huge slave-gangs.
By the 400s BCE, the rising wealth from trade transformed the structure of Athenian
society and politics. A primary use for wealth was the procurement of slaves, who were
usually non-Greek foreigners captured in war. Slaves were found everywhere, from
household assistants to agricultural workers to potters to galley rowers and miners. For
wealth Athenians they were valuable status symbols, like a car today. Every soldier had
a slave on campaign, and a wealthy man might own fifty or more, especially for
manufacturing. Slaves often worked side by side with free laborers, and sometimes
earned the same wage. One was not allowed in the streets or markets of Athens to strike
a slave, because one may accidentally hit an Athenian, because in dress and appearance,
slaves look just like common Athenian.
The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few very rich people led to the buying up of
small farms and the creation of large estates worked by slave labor.
Wealth did have
the effect of undermining traditional aristocracy, which is to say social privilege by
birth and family. One could now become a powerful person through wealth.
this change seemed to favor oligarchy (the rule of the few), not democracy in politics.
Nevertheless, we have already mentioned the importance of the Phalanx and Hoplites.