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ClSt 196S S10

Ancient Economy and Society



Joshua D. Sosin

Where: Time: TTh 1005-1120| Space Perkins 2-070:

Classical Studies | 229A Allen Bldg.
OH: tba | joshua[DOT]sosin[AT]duke[DOT]edu

SPIEL: This course is an introduction to the study of the ancient economy. We shall move chronologically, but this will not be a survey. Rather, we shall tackle primary and secondary sources as case studies that present particularly challenging or important problems.


  1. E. E. Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society: A Banking Perspective (Princeton 1992; or repr. ed. 1997); ISBN 0691015929 [ amz | b&n | abe > search ]

  2. M. I. Finley, The Ancient Economy (updated edition, Berkeley 1999) ISBN 0520219465, with foreward by I. Morris. [ amz | b&n | abe > search ]; the second edition of 1985 is also acceptable, except that you will want to xerox Morris' introduction.

Remaining materials are on-line.

Week Tuesday Thursday


01/14 - Introduction
READ: Cartledge, "The Economy (Economies)"

some terms mentioned in class


01/19 - Solon
: E. M. Harris, “Did Solon Abolish Debt-Bondage?” CQ 52 (2002) 415–430
READ: E. M. Harris, “A New Solution to the Riddle of Seisachtheia" [10pp]
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.1-2 (notes) [45pp] [see also Plut. Per. 16.3–5 ("During all these years...domestic economy")| or at Perseus]

OPTIONAL READ: for a quick review of the development of the Athenian democracy: M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (1991) ch3 27-54 optional. Some terms from Hansen:

  • Hoplite (p32): wikip (see def at top only)
  • for Kleisthenes' division of Attica (p34) see map / scheme
  • Piraeus = port pf Athens (p36): wikip | google map
  • Areopagos (p37): wikip paragr4
  • Assembly = Ekklêsia (p37): wikip
  • Council = Boulê (p37): wikip
  • People's Court = Hêliaia (p37): wikip

OPTIONAL READ: L. Foxhall, “A View from the Top: Evaluating the Solonian Property Classes” [24pp]

01/21 - Empire
: A. Blamire, “Athenian Finance, 454–404 B.C.” Hesperia 70 (2001) 99–126
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.3-4 [61pp] [see also Pliny Ep. 10.54-55 | Ep. 3.19 | Pliny Ep. 6.19]

Finding scholarship


01/26 - Doing Bad Doing Good
READ: Christ, The Bad Citizen ch.4 [61pp.]
READ: Lysias 21

OPTIONAL READ: C. H. Lyttkens, "A Predatory Democracy?," Explorations in Economic History 31 (1994) 62-90.
OPTIONAL READ: C. H. Lyttkens, "A Rational-Actor Perspective on the Origin of Liturgies in Ancient Greece," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 153 (1997) 462-484

01/28 - Real Estate
: Xenophon Oikonomikos. Skim 1-19, but pay close attention from 20.1 to the end.
READ: Demosthenes 37
READ: Harris, "Apotimema" [22pp]


02/02 - Team Reading Report: α, β, γ

02/04 - Team Reading Report: δ, ε, ς

First Milestone Review


02/09 - Banking
: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 1-3 [57pp]
READ: Isocrates 17

02/11 - Banking
: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch.4
READ: Demosthenes 49
READ: Demosthenes 34


02/16 - Banking
READ: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 5 [79pp]
READ: Demosthenes 35
READ: Demosthenes 33

02/18 - Banking
READ: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 6 [35pp]
READ: Demosthenes 27
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.5-6 [54pp]


02/23 - Funds
READ: Lysias 30
READ: Xenophon Poroi.
READ: [Arist.] Oec. 2

02/25 - Coinage
READ: Ober, Democracy and Knowledge (2008) ch.6 211-263.


03/02 - Team Reading Report: δ, ε, ς

02/29 - Team Reading Report: α, β, γ

Second Milestone Review


03/09 - Spring Break

03/11 - Spring Break


03/16 - Coinage and Money
READ: Bresson, "Coinage and Money Supply" [24pp]
READ: Sosin, "Alexanders and Stephanephoroi at Delphi" [17pp]
READ: idem, "Boeotian Silver, Theban Agio and Bronze Drachmas" [6pp] / translation of IG VII 2426.
READ: idem, "Agio at Delphi" [13pp]
03/18 - War
: Chaniotis, War in the Hellenistic World ch.7 [25pp]
READ: V. Gabrielsen, "Economic Activity, Maritime Trade and Piracy in the Hellenistic Aegean," REA 103 (2001) 219-240


03/23 - Taxes
: Badian, Publicans and Sinners
READ: I.Oropos 308
READ: Some selections on publicans; see esp. CIL I2 698 at end

03/25 - Alimenta and Demography
READ: Duncan-Jones, The Economy of the Roman Empire2 ch.7
READ: G. Woolf, "Food, Poverty and Patronage," PBSR 68 (1990) 197-228.
READ: Pliny, Ep. 7.18
READ: Frier, "Roman Demography"


03/30 - Banking and Business
: Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World ch.1-6

04/01 - Banking and Business
: Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World ch.7-12
Optional epilogue to Andreau, B&B: Temin, "Financial Intermediation"


04/06 - Team Reading Report: β, δ, ς

04/08 - Team Reading Report: α, γ, ε

Third Milestone Review


04/13 - Cities and Provinces
: Plin, Ep. X
: Lewis and Reinhold II ch. 6 minus Diocletian
READ: Lucian, My Dream
READ: IG XIV 830, as translated

04/15 - People
: E. Lo Cascio, “The Size of the Roman Population: Beloch and the Meaning of the Augustan Census Figures,” JRS 84 (1994) 23–40
READ: W. V. Harris, "Demography, Geography and the Sources of Roman Slaves," JRS 89 (1999) 62-75


04/20 - Numbers
: Hopkins, "Rome, Taxes, Rents and Trade" [in case you find yourself interested in the original argument: JRS 70 (1980) 101-125; re-stated in modified form also at K. Hopkins, “Rents, Taxes, Trade and the City of Rome,” in E. Lo Cascio (ed.), Mercati permanenti e mercati periodici nel mondo romano (Bari 2000) 253–267]
READ: Temin, "Estimating GDP"; with response

04/22 - Landholding Patterns
READ: A. Bowman, "Landholding in the Hermopolite Nome in the Fourth Century A.D.," JRS 75 (1985) 137-163. [jstor]
READ: R. S. Bagnall, "Landholding in Late Roman Egypt: The Distribution of Wealth," JRS 82 (1992) 128-149, which responds to the Bowman. [jstor]


04/27 - Last day

Projects Due



METHOD: In this class we are 18 students. We shall work together, in six (6) teams of three (3), alpha-stigma. Each team will have the opportunity to co-author a 30-to-36-page paper (that is 10-12 pages per student). Collaboration is your mantra. Devise, research, structure and plan, and execute as a team. Teams are free to decide how best to distribute effort (three 12-page sections, six 6-page sections, whatever), so long as each member is responsible for an equal share of the product. Teams will work together to formulate their projects. But we shall also discuss them in class with a view to knitting these 6 papers together into a meaningful whole--something like a book or 'companion.'

Teams should use the class wiki, google docs, or some other collaborative tool, to manage all aspects of the work, including drafts, notes, discussion of project design, everything. The point is not so much to give me the teacher something to measure, but rather to foster a culture of fearless sharing and water-carrying, in which everyone does his or her part and no one is afraid to mess up! Regular review of each other's work is part of the collaborative process. Note: You do not need to have any experience with wikis or other online tools; they are easy to master; I'll help!

Collaboration: 10% of grade. Each of you will have the opportunity to write a brief paper assessing the collaborative process (what worked, what did not, what to expand or contract, etc.), worth 10% of the final grade.

Participation: 35% of grade; this is a seminar; I provide framework, background, readings, occasional presentations and lectures, but you are responsible for discussion. On any given day your primary responsibility is to come prepared to attack the day's readings with questions, comments, problems, counter-arguments, parallels, etc.

  • Primary sources: All of the primary sources assigned for this class are to be read in translation. But if you have Latin and/or Greek, don't shrink from using them.
  • Secondary sources: I expect you to engage the readings head-on, to be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of authors' arguments and to situate them in the context of our other primary and secondary readings and our discussions. To read a scholarly argument is to test its merits.
  • Discussion: Whatever your interests or background I expect you to root your contributions in specific passages in the readings. Point to specifics. Be prepared to explain yourself with close reference to texts. I encourage you to bring up passages that you do not understand (chances are someone else, myself included, is similarly confused!), but I expect you to be able to describe the scope and dimension of your confusion: "Aristotle's claim X at passage A seems to contradict his assertion Y at passage B in these 2 ways; I don't get it."
  • Contribution: I value and reward hard work and careful thought. If your command of, say, Greek history is weaker than that of your fellow students, do not fear. I do not expect you to know everything about antiquity, but rather to work hard to master the materials covered by this course. Never let your fear that someone else might know more than you keep you from speaking in class. In this setting, how you think means more than what you know. We all bring something to the table.
  • See me: I am your biggest supporter. If for some reason you feel uncomfortable talking in class, come see me right away. We'll see what we can do to help you feel more at ease.

Team Reading Report: 20% of grade; on 3 occasions (weeks 4, 8, 13) your team will have the opportunity to present a 15-minute report on readings that you are doing for the research project.

  • Work: Your team's objective is--in no more than 15 minutes--to teach the others something important that you have learned in your ongoing research: a puzzle that you have encountered, a neat article that you read, a body of evidence that you had not known about, an idea that turned out to be a dead end or especially fruitful, whatever.
  • Form: I do not care whether you bring a handout, PP-presentation, written summaries, whatever. Your team will have no more than 20 minutes to teach the others somerthing important that you have learned; whatever helps you meet that objective is fine with me. If you would like to suggest a short reading for the others to do for class, let me know in advance, and I'll be happy to put it online.

Paper: 35% of grade; each team will have the opportunity to write a research paper (10-12 pages of content per student) on a topic of your choosing. I will help point you in fun and fruitful directions.

  • Argument: I shall help each team formulate topics and shape arguments. You must advance an argument. It need not be new, but it must be yours. In other words, I do not expect you to have mastered all of classical scholarship, but I do expect you to define a problem and attempt to solve it with careful reference to primary and secondary materials.
  • Procedure: I shall help you pin down potential topics, but I expect you to take the ball from there. I am available to help you navigate bibliography, shape directions of enquiry, refine arguments, etc., but you must take the initiative. I expect that teams will start on projects early in the semester, work steadily, and come to me for help as often as you want/need
  • Effort: I shall help teams formulate resaerch topics. Each team will divide up labor equitably so as to make best use of its consitutents' strengths.
  • Milestone Reviews: You will not turn in 'drafts' of the paper. Instead, there will be three milestone reviews. Since you will be doing your work publically, your team (and fellows students, and I) will have the chance to comment on your work as the semester unfolds. Each team will set goals (the beginnings of a topic and a bit of bibiliography by Milestone 1; the beginnings of an outline and a rough prospectus by Milestone 2, etc). I will give rough parameters, but each team will set its own goals. Review will take place in and outside of class; in class by all of us, outside of class by me.
  • Due: Tue 04/27, in class

Duke | Classical Studies | Sosin