Ancient Economy by M. I. Finley

By M. I. Finley

"Technical development, financial progress, productiveness, even potency haven't been major pursuits because the starting of time," pronounces M. I. Finley in his vintage paintings. The states of the traditional Mediterranean global had no recognizable real-property industry, by no means fought a commercially encouraged battle, witnessed no force to capital formation, and assigned the administration of many monstrous organisations to slaves and ex-slaves. briefly, to check the economies of the traditional international, one needs to start by way of discarding many premises that appeared self-evident earlier than Finley confirmed that they have been lifeless or deceptive. to be had back, with a brand new foreword by way of Ian Morris, those sagacious, fertile, and infrequently combative essays are only as electrifying at the present time as while Finley first wrote them.

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Out of context that seems straightforward enough. The context, however, is not irrelevant. Apuleius, son of a high official of Madaurus, a Roman colony in North Africa, had spent many years abroad, chiefly in philosophical and rhetorical study. On his return to North Mrica, he married a wealthy woman older than himself, a widow for fourteen years, and was brought to trial by her son on the charge of seduction through magic. The bill of particulars included the claim that Apuleius was a poor fortune-hunter; he replied, in his defence from which I quoted, with the inconsistency permitted in a pleader.

II Orders and Status reads much in ancient authors will eventually be struck by the fact that, in a culture lacking statistics in general, there was a curious abundance of precise figures, readily and publicly proclaimed, of the size of individual fortunes or at least of individual financial transactions. g8-Io4), the swineherd Eumaeus remarks to the "stranger" about his absent master, "not twenty men together have so much wealth; I will give you the inventory, twelve herds of cattle on the mainland, as many of sheep, so many droves of swine", and so on, there is no trace of satire, nothing of Shaw's Captain Bluntschli, the Swiss hotelkeeper who announced at the close of Arms and the Man, "I have nine thousand six hundred pairs of sheets and blankets, with two thousand four hundred eiderdown quilts.

One can quote Plato to "disprove" almost any general statement one tries to make about Greek society, but that is a stultifying and fundamentally wrong historical method. C. Greeks did not, after all, abolish, or even question, monogamy and the family despite the arguments adduced against them in the Republic. Nor is it a legitimate objection that the writers from whom our knowledge of the ideology comes, for Greece as for Rome, were in the vast majority men from, or attached to, the upper classes.

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