Journal of Ancient Civilizations 34/2 (2019): 200 Years after August Boeckh’s The Public Economy of Athens: Perspectives of Economic History for the 21st Century
The double blind peer-reviewed papers of this fascicle of JAC result from a con-ference at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung (Center for Inter-disciplinary Studies) of the University of Bielefeld (6–8 September 2017), and have been edited by the organizers, Sven Günther and Dorothea Rohde. Starting from the epoch-making work of August Boeckh on The Public Economy of Athens, which was published in 1817 and is still a reference work, the authors seek to review and update certain aspects of the public economic affairs in ancient Athens, from different perspectives and disciplines. The papers published here are the first results and a step towards a new public economy of Athens that has still to be written.
TABLE OF CONTENT
Volume 34/2, 2019
GÜNTHER, SVEN / ROHDE, DOROTHEA:
200 Years after August Boeckh’s The Public Economy of Athens: Perspectives of Economic History for the 21st Century (pp. 129–134)
BRESSON, ALAIN: The Athenian Money Supply in the Late Archaic and Early Classical Period (pp. 135–153)
EICH, ARMIN: The Struggle over Prices and Conditions of Price Formation in Classical Athens (pp. 155–187)
FLAMENT, CHRISTOPHE: The Athenian Coinage, from Mines to Markets (pp. 189–209)
GÜNTHER, SVEN: Narrating Checks and Balances? The Setup of Finance-related Administrative Documents and Institutions in 5th and 4th Century BC Athens (pp. 211–227)
PRITCHARD, DAVID M.: The Democratic Control of Public Spending in Classical Athens (pp. 229–243)
ROHDE, DOROTHEA: For Everything to Remain the Same, Everything Must Change! Private Wealth and Public Revenues (pp. 245–271)
FRANZEN, WOLFGANG: Tax Morale in Classical Athens (pp. 273–288)
OBER, JOSIAH: Income Inequality, Political Equality, and Taxation in Late-classical Athens (pp. 289–316)
INDEX OF ANCIENT SOURCES (pp. 317–326)
ABSTRACTS (pp. 327–330)
Sven GÜNTHER / Dorothea ROHDE (IHAC, NENU, Changchun / University of Bielefeld)
200 YEARS AFTER AUGUST BOECKH’S THE PUBLIC ECONOMY OF ATHENS: PERSPECTIVES OF ECONOMIC HISTORY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY (pp. 129–134)
The introduction to the papers resulting from a conference at the Zentrum für Inter-disziplinäre Forschung (Center for Interdisciplinary Studies) of the University of Bielefeld (6–8 September 2017) deals with the epoch-making work of August Boeckh on the public finances and economy of ancient Athens, which was published in 1817, and the undergoing review and update by scholars from different disciplines. The papers published here are the first results and a step towards a new public economy of Athens that has still to be written.
Alain BRESSON (The University of Chicago)
THE ATHENIAN MONEY SUPPLY IN THE LATE ARCHAIC AND EARLY CLASSICAL PERIOD (pp. 135–153)
This study produces an estimate of the money supply in Athens by combining an analysis of (a) the quantities of metal produced by the Laurion mines, of (b) the attrition of the money supply, and (c) of the export from Athens of precious metal to pay the various public or private expenses of the Athenians. It shows that, in order to fit with Thucydides’ number of ca. 10,000 talents in the Athenian public and sacred reserves in 450 BC, the actual amount of silver production in Laurion was at least in the range of 1,500 talents in 450 BC (the “high count”), not 700 (the “low count”).
Armin EICH (University of Wuppertal)
THE STRUGGLE OVER PRICES AND CONDITIONS OF PRICE FORMATION IN CLASSICAL ATHENS (pp. 155–187)
In contemporary economic thought the up- and downward movements of prices are usually understood as resulting solely, or foremost, from the interplay of offer and demand. Conceding that these factors had a basic impact on price formation already in the monetized economy of Classical Athens, it is contended in this paper that the mechanisms of price formation cannot be explained through economic processes alone. In Classical Athens, as could be expected in an embedded economy, social and political forces as well as strictly economic ones were at work in establishing price levels. The spectrum ranges from political intervention over indirect interference to the influencing of the behavior of market participants through social pressure. Being a matter of existential importance, price formation was a subject of permanent trials of strength between various interest groups or social classes in ancient Athens.
Christophe FLAMENT (University of Namur (Belgium))
THE ATHENIAN COINAGE, FROM MINES TO MARKETS (pp. 189–209)
This study tries to identify the main parameters determining the rhythm and scale of annual coin production in Athens by considering first the profitability of the Laurion mining district. The next stage is to clarify the relationships between mining activity and monetary production by examining epigraphic documents from Athens and Delphi dealing with coin manufacture. The main conclusion is that the greatest part of the Laurion silver was converted into Athenian coins by mine lessees to defray their operating costs.
Sven GÜNTHER (IHAC, NENU, Changchun)
NARRATING CHECKS AND BALANCES? THE SETUP OF FINANCE-RELATED ADMINISTRATIVE DOCUMENTS AND INSTITUTIONS IN 5TH AND 4TH CENTURY BC ATHENS (pp. 211–227)
The setup and narratives of finance-related administrative documents and powers tell the story and fate of the Athenian democracy. On the one hand, one can see the permanently repeated and impressive statement of stability that did not only astonish contemporaries, especially critics of the democratic system. It was mirrored in the frequent publication of financial accounts. They were more representative in various aspects than informative in the sense of a real transparent accountability. Additionally, the many offices mentioned both in the literary and epigraphic documents reflect the constant mistrust in, and restriction of, the accumulation of power in the democratic framework. On the other hand, these formalities and standardized formulas do clearly not carry the whole story, and are superseded in the course of the 4th century by informal power-conglomerations.
David PRITCHARD (L’Université de Lyon / The University of Queensland)
THE DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OF PUBLIC SPENDING IN CLASSICAL ATHENS (pp. 229–243)
This article challenges the famous argument of Lisa Kallet that the Athenian people did not understand public finance. It argues that the dēmos (“people”) had the necessary general knowledge and the necessary understanding of the state’s budget to make independent financial choices. Their democratic council and politicians kept them well informed on the overall fiscal position of Athens. By adjudicating public debates about the state’s budget they learnt a great deal about public finance. Over time the votes that they cast in such debates came to reflect their own priorities for their state. Consequently the sums that Athenian democracy spent on different activities reflected the preferences of, not politicians, as Kallet argued, but the dēmos themselves.
Dorothea ROHDE (University of Bielefeld)
FOR EVERYTHING TO REMAIN THE SAME, EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE! PRIVATE WEALTH AND PUBLIC REVENUES (pp. 245–271)
Expenditures and the way in which they were met were – and still are – a mirror of the values of a given society. However, the concrete content of Athenian identity was a product of discourse and therefore subject to flexible interpretation. And the interpretations became more flexible the severer the economic crises were: the defeat in the Peloponnesian War, the loss of tribute, and the huge expenditures for the civil war urged the Athenians to find ways to meet public demands. And, against all expectations, their investments even increased in the fourth century. This was only possible by using private wealth in a more sophisticated way than in the fifth century. A by-product was that the polis depended heavily on the wealthy elite – not only on their private wealth but also on their economic expertise. This correlation between private wealth and public revenues ultimately led to an office that went beyond the scope of the democratic principles of the fifth century. The increased importance of private wealth for public purposes therefore affected fundamentally the institutions of democratic Athens.
Wolfgang FRANZEN (Forschungsstelle für empirische Sozialökonomik e.V. (fores) (Office for Empirical Research on Social Economics, Cologne)
TAX MORALE IN CLASSICAL ATHENS (pp. 273–288)
Tax psychology is an interdisciplinary approach to explain attitudes and behavior of taxpayers. While tax-psychological surveys usually focus on empirical data from contemporary societies, this article relies on historical studies of classical Athens. They suggest that, due to specific political, social, and cultural conditions, in classical Athens tax morale has been positive and tax compliance rather high.
Josiah OBER (Stanford University)
INCOME INEQUALITY, POLITICAL EQUALITY, AND TAXATION IN LATE-CLASSICAL ATHENS (pp. 289–316)
This paper contributes to the question of the relationship between democracy, economic inequality, and taxation in ancient Greece by developing a realistic population and income model for late classical Athens. The model is evidence-based, although hypothetical in most particulars. It aligns with other evidence suggesting that after-tax economic inequality in late classical Athens was low by historical standards. While no causal argument is made here, the model is consistent with the hypothesis that democracy tended to lower economic inequality over time, in part through progressive taxation. The model also helps to explain Athenian social stability: poorer Athenians, including many slaves, were beneficiaries of a system that enabled most Athenians to live well above the level of bare subsistence. Some slaves had the chance of earning their way out of slavery by, in effect, purchasing themselves. While taxation could be disruptively heavy for some estates, the overall tax burden on wealthy Athenians, as a class, was not high enough to trigger elite-level revolutionary cooperation against the democratic regime.