ClSt 321 S08

Ancient Economy and Society



Joshua D. Sosin

Coordinates: Time: WF 1450-1605 | Space: 229 Allen

Classical Studies | 229A Allen Bldg.
OH: M 0900-1030, Th 1300-1400 | Phone: 681-2992 | 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.

Note: discusson starters managed in the Class Wiki.

Sources: books to purchase.

  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 (linked from the syllabus); most are PDFs; you'll need the free Acrobat Reader. Access from outside the Duke domain is barred; if you want to access the materials from an outside ISP, you'll need to use a computer on campus or set up a VPN. The printer in the dept and the print stations in the Library handle PDFs quickly and well

Note: in the latter half of the semester -- roughly the last 7 days of class (weeks 11-14), one day for each of the 7 students -- the days' topics and, in part, readings will be determined by you (I shall offer suggestions etc., but you must develop the topics and at least make a start on a list of readings). Those cells currently hold suggestions / things we've read in the past. Those subjects must be fixed by week 8, so that I have time to make PDFs.

Week Wednesday Friday


01/11 - Introduction
READ: Cartledge, "The Economy (Economies)"

In class: IG XII.7 22

AFTER CLASS: Attend lecture: E. Harris, "Is Oedipus Guilty?: Sophocles and Athenian Homicide Law"; 226 Allen, 430pm


01/16 - 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: L. Foxhall, “A View from the Top: Evaluating the Solonian Property Classes” [24pp]
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.1-2 (notes) [45pp] [see also Plut. Per. 16.3–5 | or at Perseus]

01/18 - Empire
: A. Blamire, “Athenian Finance, 454–404 B.C.Hesperia 70 (2001) 99–126
READ: Thuc. "Archaeology" 1.2–19
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.3-4 [61pp] [see also Pliny Ep. 10.54-55 | Ep. 3.19]

RUN TO GROUND: Two primary sources from Blamire and/or Finley (see below for task definition)

I ran to ground Pliny Ep. 6.19 | GHI 58 (via PHI)


01/23 - Doing Good
: Whitehead, "Competitive Outlay and Community Profit: ΦΙΛΟΤΙΜΙΑ in Democratic Athens," C&M 34 (1983) 55-74
OPTIONAL: Whitehead, "Cardinal Virtues: The Languagae of Public Approbation in Democratic Athens," ClMed 44 (1993) 37-75


01/25 - Doing Bad
READ: Christ, The Bad Citizen ch.4 [61pp.]
READ: Lys. 21


01/30 - Banking
: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 1-3 [57pp]
READ: Isocr. 17

Since there seemed to be some interest in judicial torture: Gagarin, "The Torture of Slaves in Athenian Law," CP 91 (1996) 1-18.


02/01 - Banking
: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch.4
READ: Dem. 49 [if you want to learn more about Timotheus see Davies, APF.]
READ: Dem. 34

RUN TO GROUND: Two primary sources from from Cohen and/or passages (from wherever) that bear directly and interestingly on Dem 34 / 49


02/06 - Banking
READ: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 5 [79pp]
READ: Dem. 35
READ: Dem. 33

in case you'd like a taste of Millett, on some of the same texts.


02/08 - Banking
READ: Cohen, Athenian Economy and Society ch. 6 [35pp]
READ: Dem. 27 (28-29 optional)
READ: Finley, Ancient Economy ch.5-6 [54pp]


02/13 - Real Estate
: Xen. Oec. Skim 1-19, but pay close attention from 20.1 to the end (Pomeroy).
READ: Dem. 37
READ: Harris, "Apotimema" [22pp]


02/15 - Funds
READ: Lys. 30
READ: Xen. Por.
READ: [Arist.] Oec. 2

Feel the pain: OGIS 46

RUN TO GROUND: Two primary sources (from wherever) that bear directly and interestingly on Lys. 30 and/or Xen. Por. and/or [Arist.] Oec. 2


02/20 - Lycurgan Athens
READ: Humphreys, "Lycurgus of Boutadai" [53pp]

READ: I.Oropos 297 AND 298 (here on paper, if you prefer, along with 296 if you are interested)
READ: Hyp. Eux. 16-17
READ: Agora XIX L8


02/22 - Agriculture
READ: Foxhall, Olive Cultivation in Ancient Greece ch. 1-3 [82pp]


02/27 - 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] / Here's IG VII 2426 (translation), in case you want to read the Greek.
READ: idem, "Agio at Delphi" [13pp]


02/29 - 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

RUN TO GROUND: Two inscriptions from Chaniotis and/or Gabrielsen

If piracy is your thing: much overlap with the REA piece, but still much of interest in Gabrielsen, "Piracy and Slave Trade"


03/05 - Cities
: L. Migeotte, L'Emprunt public, 9, 11, 19, 45 (note generalities, not details), 62, 79, 96, 97 (note: some chunks are struck through in red; no need to read these)
READ: Astynomoi inscription 
: Selections from Austin


03/07 - Taxes
: Badian, Publicans and Sinners (ch.1-3 | ch.4-6 | notes and index)
READ: I.Oropos 308
READ: Some selections on publicans; see esp. CIL I2 698 at end.


03/12 - Spring Break

03/14 - Spring Break


03/19 - Banking and Business
: Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World ch.1-12

03/21 - Agoranomos and muhtasib
READ: B. R. Foster, JESHO 13 (1970) 128-144.
READ: G. C. Miles, Arabica 9 (1962) 113-118.
: D. Sperber, ZDMG 127 (1977) 227-243.
READ: R. P. Buckley, Arabica 39 (1992) 59-117.



03/26 - Fish, DG
READ: Bekker-Nielsen, "Nets, Boats and Fishing in the Roman World"
READ: Davidson, "Fish, Sex and Revolution i Athens"

READ: Trakadas, "The Archaeological Evidence for Fish Processing..."
READ: Ørsted, "Salt, Fish and the Sea..."


03/28 - Coin Supply, JF
READ: D. Rathbone, "Monetisation, Not Price-Inflation, in Third-Century A.D. Egypt?" in C. E. King and D. G. Wigg (eds.), Coin Finds and Coin Use in the Roman World (Berlin 1996) 321–339.
READ: Howgego, "The Supply and Use of Money in the Roman World: 200 B.C. to A.D. 300," JRS 82 (1992) 1-31.
: Duncan-Jones, Money and Government ch5-6



04/02 - Food, CP
READ: Bakels, "Access to Luxury Foods..."
READ: Erdkamp, "Agriculture, Underemployment..."
READ: Evans, "Wheat Production..."
: Purcell, "The Way We Used to Eat..."

Martinez, "Agriculture and Food..."
Fulford, "Economic Interdependence..."

van der Veen, "When Is Food a Luxury?"
Mayerson, "The Role of Flax..."


04/04 - 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"

KNOW ABOUT: N. Criniti, La tabula alimentaria di Veleia (Parma 1991)


04/09 - Babylon, CA
READ: Aperghis, Seleucid Royal Economy 87-113.
READ: van der Spek, "Palace, Temple, and Market in Seleucid Babylonia"

READ: McEwan, "Babylonia in the Hellenistic Period"
Austin2 nos. 163, 166, 167


04/11 - Economies of Death, MM
READ: Bodel, "The Organization of the Funerary Trade..."
READ: Stevens, "Charon's Obol..."
READ: Garland, "The Well-Ordered Corpse"

READ: Hopkins, Death and Renewal ch.4, sections III, VI, VII, and VIII
READ: Isaeus 8, trans. K. Freedman
READ: IG XII.5 593 [LSCG 97; Syll.3 1218]
READ: Fraser and Nicholas,"The Funerary Garden of Mousa" - translation only

: Hillner, "Domus, Family, and Inheritance: The Senatorial Family House in late Antique Rome"

: MM


04/16 - Sparta, DR
: Hodkinson, Property and Wealth... ch4
READ: Hodkinson, "Servile and Free Dependents..."
READ: Cartledge, Sparta and Laconia... ch10


Final papers due
4:30pm, Fri 25 April

  • Participation: 30% 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. Some discussion starters.
    • Primary sources: Almost all of the primary sources assigned for this class are to be read in translation. Don't knock reading translations; this is the fastest way to ingest a large quantity of ancient texts. But don't stop there either. I expect you to develop an eye for spotting those passages that will especially repay close reading in Greek or Latin (I shall bring examples to class periodically); it will be to your advantage to have the Greek or Latin in front of you while you read the translations.

    • 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: Whether your interests incline toward models or details, toward literature or documents, 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.

    • 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.

  • Discussion Chairs: 20% of grade; on 2 occasions you will have the opportunity to chair discussion for the day (order determined by random selection).
    • Work: You will read the same texts that everyone else reads for the day, but you will be responsible for bringing a series of questions around which we can build discussion. You will not be required to run the entire discussion, but simply to frame several questions suggested by the readings that you feel warrant close engagement and discussion, and to assume a more hands-on role in shaping discussion than you might on any other day.

    • Form: I do not care whether you bring a handout, PP-presentation, vel sim., so long as each of us has a copy of your questions; if you send them far enough in advance I might be able to add them to website.

  • Primary Source Missions: 20% of grade; on several occasions throughout the semester you will have the opportunity to RUN TO GROUND a couple or few primary sources to which you find references in our secondary readings.
    • Work: Let's say we are reading Chaniotis' chapter on the economics of war.... In constructing his argument, he cites dozens of inscriptions. You will (1) pick, say, 2 (I'll assign a number in advance), (2) find the editions in the library, (3) xerox the texts for the class, (4) read them (or the relevant portions if they are very large), (5) bring a set of talking points (not more than a few) derived from the texts (What seemed interesting? What did Chaniotis get right /wrong? What did you not understand?). We shall not have the time to go through every single one of these exercises, but you should think of them as part of your participation for that class; use them to help generate questions and subjects for discussion.

    • Form: This should result in a slim stack of xeroxes to share with the class and me. If you scan them as PDFs, I can put them on the website.

  • Paper: 30% of grade; you will have the opportunity to write a research paper (20 pp.) on a topic of your choosing. At the beginning of the semester I'll share with you a list of subjects that I think would lead in fun and fruitful directions. Required conventions.
    • Argument: 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.

    • Genre and Form: In my opinion the genre "seminar paper" is at best a stepping stone to the genre "scholarly article." I expect you to try to write the latter. Find examples of short, strong, clear articles that you respect and admire. Then try to use them as models for your own growth as a writer. I am happy to share with you examples of articles that I think are good. For a seminar paper that I revised and published as a short article see CP 95 (2000) 199-206. I do not expect you to produce publishable papers, but rather (a) to develop a thesis of your own, (b) to defend it as best you can with reference to primary and secondary materials, and (c) to do so in the idiom of the scholarly article. Your argument should be clear and compelling. Follow standard conventions for abbreviations, bibliography, etc.

    • 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 you will start on your research paper early in the semester, work steadily, and come to me for help as often as you want/need.

Assessment: At the end of the semester I shall give you a brief written assessment of your performance in the class. Nothing in this document should be news to you. I ask you please to arrange to meet with me twice during the semester (once before the midpoint and once after) so that we can chat about how you are doing and how you can develop strategies for improving your skills and broadening your knowledge.

I shall use a version of the linked spreadsheet to calculate your grades (mine differs only inasmuch as it has everyone's names); if you want to keep track of your grade, simply download the spreadsheet and enter your grades as you get them. You can find an articulation of my grading scale online.

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