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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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.
"Barry O’Halloran has written an important book on the Athenian naval economy that deserves the attention of ancient historians. (...) this is the first to explore the Athenian navy from a political-economic perspective, making it a welcome addition to the recent flurry of work on ancient Greek economic history. (...) O’Halloran is equally comfortable navigating macroeconomic terminology as he is Thucydides’ text. He shows convincingly that the Athenians considered decisions about the navy to be economic decisions. (...) Overall, O’Halloran’s book is compellingly argued, nicely articulated, and well researched. (...) The original watercolors he commissioned to brighten his pages, especially those in Chapter 9 of triremes, shipsheds and Piraeus, are a unique treat and a beautiful touch. (...) O’Halloran’s book is, and will remain, an indispensable resource and reference for anyone interested in Athenian naval or economic history." - Tim Sorg, in: BMCR 2019.09.48
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.