Ancient Greek History

What to Know About Trade in Ancient Greece

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When looking at some of the major Ancient civilizations of the world, such as the Egyptians and Persians, they had the benefit of fertile land and a reliable water source. Historians believe that this is one of the contributing factors as to why they prospered. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

The Ancient Greeks didn’t have fertile lands but they did have something else – a remarkable ability to take what they could from the land and use their natural resources to their advantage. As a result of this, they were able to develop trade relationships with all the major ancient civilizations, and this was part of the reason why Ancient Greece prospered. Here’s a look at the nature of trade in Ancient Greece:

The Ancient Greeks and the Sea

Once the Ancient Greek people realized that the land in which they lived had a tendency to be inhospitable, they turned to the seas to help them. Although some parts of Greece do contain fertile soul, it is difficult to grow and cultivate the land in many of its areas. However, this wasn’t the case with the sea. Since most of Ancient Greece is accessible to the sea, it made sense that it became a major part of the economy.

Today, modern Greeks almost take it for granted. After all, they know that it has been part of the economy for thousands of years. They also know what the sea means to their culture because it plays a part in their food supply, tourist trade, and even their industry. This legacy all began with the Ancient Greeks and the fact that they used the waters to help them earn a living.

By the time trade was developed in the region, the Greeks had already been producing goods such as olive oil and wine that other cultures wanted. Evidence that the Minoans, the first civilization in Greece, and the Egyptians had been in contact with one another is present in archaeological sites in both places. In fact, archaeological evidence has surfaced that shows that Greece had been engaging in trade that dates back 10.000 years ago. Also, archaeologists discovered obsidian, which came from the island of Milos, on mainland Greece.

What the Ancient Greeks Traded

The Ancient Greeks described their own soil as being “stingy”, which explains the Greeks’ relationship with what their land could produce. They are known to have described their land by saying, “The gods threw down a pile of rocks.” However, rather than let that stop them from thriving, they decided to find other ways to prosper. By traveling by sea to other lands, they were able to establish colonies and also trade their goods for other items that the people need to survive. Because of the wealth brought in by this trade, the people not only survived, but also thrived. They traded items like wine, olives, olive oil, pottery, etc.

When they traveled abroad, they focused on trading goods that other cultures may desire because they didn’t produce it themselves. This included items like obsidian from the island of Milos, unique art and crafts, such as sculptures and pottery, wine, olive oil, and their metalworking. In fact, it is the metalworking that seems to have made the biggest difference. Over time, the items were also traded for coin once the world switched to using currency.

The fact that the land in Ancient Greece wasn’t fertile didn’t stop Ancient Greece from developing into one of the most powerful and influential civilizations in the world. In fact, it is because of the trade industry that Ancient Greece truly began to thrive. Many of the items that were typically traded to other ancient cultures were highly coveted, which made trading them so much easier.


Wikipedia – Economy of Ancient Greece

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