The Political Economy of Classical Athens

A Naval Perspective


Recently there has been a welcome revival of scholarly interest in the economy of classical Greece. In the face of increasingly compelling arguments for the existence of a market economy in classical Athens, the Finleyan orthodoxy is finally relinquishing its long dominion. In this book, Barry O’Halloran seeks to contribute to this renewed debate by re-interrogating the ancient evidence using more recent economic interpretative frameworks. The aim is to re-evaluate accepted orthodoxies and present the economic history of this emblematic city-state in a new light. More specifically, it analyses the economic foundations of Athens through the prism of its navy. Its macroeconomic approach utilises an employment-demand model through which enormous naval defence expenditures created an exceptional period of demand-led economic growth.
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Biographical Note

Barry O’Halloran has degrees in Economics and Politics, French and Renaissance Studies and more recently (2017) was awarded a Ph.D. in Classics at Trinity College Dublin. He was a television journalist with the Irish national broadcaster, RTE, and later founded a digital communications company working in real-time financial information services.

Table of contents

Preface Figures, Tables and Graphs
1 Primitive Positions—the Oikos Debate  1  The Defining Quartet—Marx, Weber, Polanyi and Finley  2  The Ancient Economy Post-Finley
2 New Perspectives  1  Institutions—the Engines of History  2  Materialist Man and His Motivations  3  The Only Constant is Change  4  Commerce, Conquest and Colonisation  5  The Malthusian Trap and Economic Efflorescences
3 Warfare States  1  Path Dependence  2  The Political Economies of Athens and Sparta: a Comparative Analysis  3  The Spartan Naval Mirage
4 War, Strategy and the Transition to Triremes  1  The Gift of Ares and Athenian Conquest Strategy  2  Emerging Patterns of War  3  Strategy  4  Early Athenian Expansionism  5  The Transition to Triremes  6  Private to Polis Navies
5 The Late Archaic Transition—the Naval Evidence  1  Athens’ ‘Turn to the Sea’  2  Casus Belli  3  The Athenian Naval Revolution  4  Themistocles’ Naval Expansion
6 Money, Markets and Naval Procurement  1  Coinage, Silver and Money Supply  2  Trireme Costs and Lifespan  3  Trireme Timber and Naval Procurement  4  Provisioning the Fleet—a Network of Markets
7 Naval Institutions—Trierarchy  1  The Rules of the Game  2  Liturgy—Delivering Public Goods  3  Trierarchy—Delivering the Fleet  4  Trierarchy in Theory and Practice  5  Trierarchy—Institutional Evolution  6  Cleruchy—Further Institutional Adaptation
8 Naval Innovation  1  The Archaic Fleet and Athenian Defence Strategy  2  Naval Technological Innovation—the Ram  3  Greek Innovation in Nautical Design
9 Naval Defence Infrastructure  1  Shipsheds  2  The Athenian Circuit Walls  3  The Piraeus  4  The Long Walls  5  Estimating the Costs
10 Soldiers, Sailors, Citizens  1  Hoplite Ideology and Its Persistence  2  Schools of Democracy  3  Athenian Trireme Crews  4  Mercenaries, Metics and Slaves  5  The Trireme School of Democracy
11 The Ancient Athenian Naval Economy  1  Economic Growth  2  Instrumental Behaviour, Self-Interest and Markets  3  The Athenian Labour Market  4  The Naval Economy  5  Size Matters
12 The Wealth of Naval Athens  1  The Versatile Trireme  2  Counting the Cost of Naval Deployments  3  The Business of Empire  4  Costs of War  5  Ancient Athenian Keynesians
Appendix: Sources and Numbers Bibliography Index


Due its cross-disciplinary approach, this book on the political economy of classical Athens will be of interest to a wide readership, including: ancient historians, classicists, economic historians, maritime historians and numismatists.


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