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Economy In The Hellenistic World Notes

Classics Notes > The Hellenistic World: societies and cultures 300 BC to 100 BC Notes

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Was there a Hellenistic economic boom?
During the classical period there had been an extensive network of trade throughout the Aegean Sea including the Greek mainland, islands and the coast of Asia Minor as well as north into the Black Sea via the Hellespont, but the particular political effects of the dawning of the Hellenistic age allowed these inter-dependencies to accelerate and even expand to new areas. The conquests of Alexander opened up the Greek world to the near East and Egypt in a way that it never had been before and with the collapse of restrictive political and cultural boundaries new markets for trade were opened and older links were strengthened considerably; this new political condition brought a greater opportunity for the free movement of goods and people as well as interaction between merchants. This was by no means total and it is probably not right to speak of one united economic unit in the Hellenistic World because the economies of some areas were still highly localised but nevertheless there is a general trend of the growth of trade in many areas. The new political shape of the world also had the effect of releasing vast amounts of stored treasure and bullion, which had been hoarded by the Achaemenid kings, into the wider economic market; this was not part of any intentional economic policy but actually came as a side effect of the successors' and then later kings' need to raise vast mercenary armies and it was through these soldiers that a great deal of coinage came into circulation thus stimulating the economy. The effect of continual warfare and the maintenance of vast standing armies, although in relatively small areas obviously potentially devastating, could actually be seen as beneficial to the wider economy; the effect of the kings and war should therefore not be underestimated when considering whether there was an economic boom. During the Hellenistic period there was a significant increase in trade, both goods and slaves, in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea; the literary and archaeological evidence seems to suggest this quite strongly. Firstly there was a significant rise in the number of shipwrecks dating from this period that have been discovered off the coast of Turkey, clearly indicating a rise in the amount of shipping that would have been passing through this region. Furthermore there have been huge quantities of Greek coinage found in Romania and Bulgaria, suggesting a rise in the slave trade in these regions, as well as a significant number of amphorae from Aegean cities such as Thasos, Chios and Rhodes found in the Northern Mediterranean and the Black sea; this too indicates that a greater number of cities were trading in greater intensity with these regions, which had been dominated in the classical period by the Athenian navy. These Bosphoran Kingdoms, with whom the islanders and the Athenians before them were trading, enjoy a surge in prosperity in the third century and this is reflected in the increased number of settlements, roads and fortifications found there. A number of islands in the Aegean enjoyed a similar growth of wealth in the Hellenistic period; Delos transformed itself into a widely trusted bank and is known to have taken 17,900 drachmas from customs tax in 2781, Cos reached its pinnacle in this period and the diverse 1

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