Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
Greek agriculture | cereals | olive | wine | fig | agricultural implements | technology | climate | irrigation | labour | arboriculture | granaries | Greek pastoralism | transhumance | food & drink | food supply | famine | water | water supply | agricultural writers
In ancient cities, 'daily bread' was a subject of prayer. Grain-harvests could be fickle, but a regular supply was a matter of survival. Food-shortage could lead to social unrest, and long-term solutions required all kinds of political an institutional resources from the authorities. Yet feeding the city was not just a problem. It was an opportunity for the political management of the poor, for competitive display among the elite, and for making money. The essays in this volume present cities and societies which responded to these challenges in very different ways, from the agro-towns in which the citizens commuted to their fields to the market-supplied towns in which an urban proletariat worked for their bread. The articles debate the food supply through all its aspects, economic, demographic, political and institutional to give a new perspective on this debate at the heart of our understandings of ancient society.
Everyone has been taught that the Greek city-state is the ultimate source of the Western tradition in literature, philosophy, and politics. For generations, scholars have focused on the rise of the city-state and its brilliant cosmopolitan culture. Now Victor Hanson, the author of several studies of ancient warfare and agriculture, has written a book that will completely change our view of Greek society. For Hanson shows that the real "Greek revolution" was not the rise of a free and democratic urban culture, remarkable as this was, but the historic innovation of the independent family farm. The heroes of his book, therefore, are what he calls "the other Greeks" -- the neglected freehold farmers, vinegrowers and herdsmen of ancient Greece who formed the backbone of Hellenic civilization. It was these tough-minded, pracitcal, and fiercely independent agrarians, Hanson contends, who gave Greek culture its distinctive emphasis on private property, constitutional government, contractual agreements, infantry warfare, and individual rights. Hanson's reconstruction of ancient Greek farm life, informed by the hands-on knowledge of the subject (he is a fifth-generation California vine and fruit-grower), is fresh, comprehensive, and totally absorbing. But his detailed chronicle of the rise and tragic fall of the Greek city-state also helps us to grasp the implications of what may be the single most significant trend in American life today -- namely, the imminent extinction of the family farm.
The ancient Greeks were for the most part a rural, not an urban, society. And for much of the Classical period, war was more common than peace. Almost all accounts of ancient history assume that farming and fighting were critical events in the lives of the citizenry. Yet never before have we had a comprehensive modern study of the relationship between agriculture and warfare in the Greek world. Hanson describes the relationship between these two important aspects of life in ancient communities. With careful attention to agronomic as well as military details, this study reveals the remarkable resilience of those farmland communities. In the past, scholars have assumed that the agricultural infrastructure of ancient society was often ruined by attack, as, for example, Athens was relegated to poverty in the aftermath of the Persian and later Peloponnesian invasions. Hanson's study shows, however, that attacks on agriculture rarely resulted in famines or permanent agrarian depression. Trees and vines are hard to destroy, and grainfields are only briefly vulnerable to torching. In addition, ancient armies were rather inefficient systematic ravagers and instead used other tactics. This work suggests that for all ancient societies, rural depression and desolation came about from more subtle phenomena―taxes, changes in political and social structure, and new cultural values―rather than from destructive warfare.
The interpretation of archaeological remains as farmsteads has met with much debate in scholarship regarding their role, identification, and even their existence. Despite the difficult nature of scholarship surrounding farmsteads, this site type is repeatedly used to describe small sites in the countryside which have varying evidence of domestic, storage, and agricultural activity. The aim of this book is to engage with the archaeological and textual data for farmsteads dating to the Classical-Hellenistic period of mainland Greece, with the purpose of understanding how these sites fulfilled agricultural roles as centers for occupation, storage, and processing for those working the land. The conclusions reached here stress the connected nature of the agricultural landscape, and demonstrate how farmsteads played a fundamental role in ancient Greek agriculture.
Though Greece is traditionally seen as an agrarian society, cattle were essential to Greek communal life, through religious sacrifice and dietary consumption. Cattle were also pivotal in mythology: gods and heroes stole cattle, expected sacrifices of cattle, and punished those who failed to provide them. This work ranges over a wealth of sources, both textual and archaeological, to explore why these animals mattered to the Greeks, how they came to be a key element in Greek thought and behavior, and how the Greeks exploited the symbolic value of cattle as a way of structuring social and economic relations. McInerney explains that cattle’s importance began with domestication and pastoralism: cattle were nurtured, bred, killed, and eaten. Practically useful and symbolically potent, cattle became social capital to be exchanged, offered to the gods, or consumed collectively. This circulation of cattle wealth structured Greek society, since dedication to the gods, sacrifice, and feasting constituted the most basic institutions of Greek life. McInerney shows that cattle contributed to the growth of sanctuaries in the Greek city-states, as well as to changes in the economic practices of the Greeks, from the Iron Age through the classical period, as a monetized, market economy developed from an earlier economy of barter and exchange. Combining a broad theoretical approach with a careful reading of sources, this book illustrates the significant position that cattle held in the culture and experiences of the Greeks.
This collection of essays examines whether today's environmental concerns can help illuminate our study of the ancient world. The contributors consider how the Greeks and Romans perceived their natural world and how their perceptions affected society. This book shows how today's environmental and ecological concerns can help illuminate our study of the ancient world. The contributors consider how the Greeks and Romans perceived their natural world, and how their perceptions affected society. The effects of human settlement and cultivation on the landscape are considered, as well as the representation of landscape in Attic drama. Various aspects of farming, such as the use of terraces and the significance of olive growing are examined. The uncultivated landscape was also important: hunting was a key social ritual for Greek and Hellenistic elites, and 'wild' places were not wastelands but played an essential economic role. This volume shows how Greeks and Romans worked hand in hand with their natural environment and not against it. It represents an outstanding collaboration between the disciplines of history and archaeology.
In this, the first comprehensive one-volume survey of the economies of classical antiquity, twenty-eight chapters summarise the current state of scholarship in their specialised fields and sketch new directions for research. The approach taken is both thematic, with chapters on the underlying determinants of economic performance, and chronological, with coverage of the whole of the Greek and Roman worlds extending from the Aegean Bronze Age to Late Antiquity. The contributors move beyond the substantivist-formalist debates that dominated twentieth-century scholarship and display a new interest in economic growth in antiquity. New methods for measuring economic development are explored, often combining textual and archaeological data that have previously been treated separately. Fully accessible to non-specialist, the volume represents a major advance in our understanding of the economic expansion that made the civilisation of the classical Mediterranean world possible.