Ancient Greek History

What to Know About Agriculture in Ancient Greece

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In order to truly understand the lives of the people in Ancient Greece, it is important to consider the economy. We know that because of the sea, there was a time when many of the city states prospered because of the fruits of the ocean. However, there was more to the Ancient Greek economy than that. The people also engaged in agricultural practices such as producing crops, raising animals, and using natural resources.

In many ways, the landscape in Greece is unforgiving. Despite the limitations the earth presented in certain parts of Greece, agriculture still thrived as a whole.  In general, crops were grown on a family by family basis and those who did produce crops grew just enough for the family to live on. However, some was brought to market for people to buy or trade for other goods. Here’s more information about the nature of agriculture in Ancient Greece:

The Ancient Greeks Produced Plenty of Crops

Greece is mountainous and only a small percentage of the land can be worked for crop production. However, those areas that can grow crops are incredibly fertile. Areas were crops were grown in Ancient Greece include the Peloponnese and certain islands, such as Ikaria and Crete. This mans that the Ancient Greeks would often prioritize farming of high value and high production crops, such as grains like barley. These grains formed the basis of the Greek diet at the time.

The Ancient Greeks were also known to cultivate olive trees and grape vines. The production of olive trees and olive oil is commonly associated with Greece, but for the Ancient Greeks olive production was extremely challenging. The climate of the region is well suited to olive tree growth but the tree’s maturation process is slow, requiring 20 or more years to bear fruit, and thus was a valuable commodity. Similar to olive production, the Ancient Greeks also produced grapes and subsequently wine, but again they were limited by both the amount of arable land and overall yield. In addition to these staple crops, the Ancient Greeks also cultivated various vegetables, herbs, and fruits, as well as other oilseed plants like sesame.

Other Forms of Agriculture in Ancient Greece

There is evidence that the Ancient Greeks raised animals. In the works of Homer, possession of stock animals like cattle, sheep, goats, and horses was considered a sign of wealth and influence. In reality though, animal husbandry was not well developed for the Ancient Greeks and this was, again, due to limitations imposed by geography. Despite this they were able to raise goats and sheep, which provided sources of wool, milk, and cheese. Other animals such as oxen, horses, chickens, and cattle were also present but limited to the wealthy or those who focused heavily on husbandry.

The Ancient Greeks were also skilled at using their natural resources wisely. For example, many of the Ancient Greeks were beekeepers, which helped fertilize their crops and provided a consistent source of honey. They would often use this honey to make mead and as a primitive medicine. Bronze production was also critical, with mining and smelting operations providing the resources necessary to make stronger and more robust farming tools.

Agriculture was important to the Ancient Greeks. In the places where crops grew very well, the economy actually thrived.


Wikipedia – Agriculture in Ancient Greece

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