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Infrastructure and Distribution in Ancient Economies

Infrastructure and Distribution in Ancient Economies: Proceedings of a conference held at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 28-31 October 2014

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    Infrastructure and Distribution in Ancient Economies
    Book Description:

    This volume presents the proceedings of the international interdisciplinary founding conference of the division “Documenta Antiqua" at the Institute for the Study of Ancient Culture of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna), held in 2014. The research focus of the new division are the source disciplines of ancient history: mainly epigraphy, numismatics and papyrology. The book contains an introductory essay as well as 17 contributions on various aspects of ancient infrastructure and on the flow of money, goods and services in ancient economies: in the classical and Hellenistic Greek world, the Roman Empire and in ancient Iran, from Neo-Assyrian times to the Parthian and Sasanian periods. In a general perspective, there is a special emphasis on numismatic contributions. So far, numismatics hardly played a part in modern research on the ancient infrastructure, although money and financial services are universally acknowledged to be indispensable elements of the infrastructure of modern societies. Hence, in this volume numismatics is fully integrated into research on the circulation of goods and the infrastructure of the ancient world for the very first time. Among the topics covered in these innovative contributions the following may be singled out: the economic implications of the extensive countermarking of Hellenistic silver coinages in Asia Minor; the importation and monetary use of blocks of foreign and obsolete bronze coins; patterns of coin production and coin distribution in the Roman Empire in the principate; structures of minting in ancient Iran in the Arsacid and Sasanian periods.

    eISBN: 978-3-7001-8471-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. 7-8)
    Bernhard Woytek

    Research in the source disciplines of ancient history at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna goes back a long way: as early as 1890, the study of Greek inscriptions from Asia Minor was taken up by the – then Imperial Academy’s – “Commission für archäologische Erforschung Kleinasiens”, the well-known research unit since then generally referred to as “Kleinasiatische Kommission”. Eighty years later, in 1970, Austria’s proud tradition of academic numismatic research, dating back to the 18th century, was finally acknowledged by the foundation of the “Numismatische Kommission”, and in 1974, the “Kommission für Antike Rechtsgeschichte” was set up: its main areas...

  2. Abbreviations used in this volume
    (pp. 9-10)
  3. Infrastructure and Distribution in Ancient Economies: by Way of Introduction
    (pp. 11-22)
    Bernhard Woytek

    In recent years, the emergence of China as the world’s new economic superpower has brought the infrastructure of long-distance trade into the spotlight of international media time and again. The establishment of rail corridors for huge express freight trains connecting economic hotspots of central China like Chongqing or capital cities of the coastal area like Shanghai and Beijing with various European hubs of commerce, whence consumer goods of Chinese production are redistributed on the European market, has been hailed as a “silk road revival”.¹ The incentive for the development of these overland connections, linking China and Europe via Kazakhstan and...

  4. Greek Economies

    • “Mankind’s Most Secure and Durable Institution”: State, Credit, Trade and Capital Accumulation in the Classical – Early Hellenistic Aegean
      (pp. 25-44)
      Vincent Gabrielsen

      In an interview, Quentin Skinner, a leading expert in the history of the state, categorically dismissed predictions about the modern state’s imminent demise. To drive home his point that the institution of the state is still very much alive and kicking, Skinner referred to the world financial crisis in 2008, particularly to how the state – in the UK, Europe and the USA – rapidly stepped in to avert the collapse of the banking system by taking over the role of supreme moneylender, thus in effect (but not expressed in words) nationalizing its banks. States, Skinner concluded, still issue currency, enforce contracts,...

    • Silver from Laureion: Mining, Smelting, and Minting
      (pp. 45-58)
      Gerhard Thür and Michele Faraguna

      In the huge volume of literature on the mining lease records, based since 1991 on the collection of M. K. Langdon in the Agora volume 19, the topic of prospecting has been neglected. Indeed, only one Athenian inscription that might be relevant exists: dated to 337–325? BC, it was carefully re-edited in 2012 by S. Lambert as IG 2³, 433 (IG 2², 411). The text, a contract between the polis and a non-Athenian, Sokles, has been known since 1839 and is still an extremely controversial issue. While until 1935 it was held to be a lease of public land,...

    • Die-Sharing and the Transfer of Dies: Evidence for Orders and Shipments of Large Sums of Money in the Ancient Greek World (5th to 3rd Centuries BC)
      (pp. 59-66)
      Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert

      The purposeful supply, distribution, and transport of money known from Roman imperial times¹ is a phenomenon based on two conditions: first, a centralized state, and second, vast territories. In the small world of the Greek city-state the second condition occurred only rarely. Western Sicily under the sway of the Dionysii can be called a territorial state (a Flächenstaat, the size of which in relation to population is much larger than in densely populated urban regions), and this is also true for the Macedonian kingdom before Philip II. As far as the numismatist can tell, both of these states appear to...

    • Coins and Trade in Hellenistic Asia Minor: the Pamphylian Hub
      (pp. 67-144)
      Alain Bresson

      The question of the role of coinage in the ancient economy, especially in the Hellenistic period, has been hotly debated in recent years. It was formerly thought to be self-evident that coins were used for trade. The authority of Aristotle and common sense alike led to the seemingly obvious conclusion that coins were minted in order to facilitate trade exchange, whether it be for international trade and ‘big business’ in general or for daily exchange in the agora.¹ The recent reevaluation of the conditions under which precious metal coins were minted has suggested radically different conclusions. At least for the...

  5. The Roman Economy

    • The Role Played by the Portus Augusti in Flows of Commerce between Rome and its Mediterranean Ports
      (pp. 147-192)
      Simon Keay

      The centrality of the Mediterranean Sea to the Roman Empire is one of the key characteristics that sets it apart from other ancient empires.¹ The establishment of control by Rome of all the lands bordering the Mediterranean by the mid 1st century AD promoted a closer integration of flows of people, money, goods and services than had been possible before, or has been achieved subsequently, particularly in the centre and west. Crucial to the success of this was the centrality of Rome within the Mediterranean as a whole and its high degree of accessibility to ships from the different provincial...

    • L’approvisionnement en métaux de l’Occident méditerranéen à la fin de la République et sous le Haut-Empire. Flux, routes, organisation
      (pp. 193-252)
      Claude Domergue and Christian Rico

      Quand Pline, au début du livre XXXIV de son Histoire Naturelle, énumère les différentes sortes de cuivre utilisées dans la frappe des monnaies à base de ce métal – cuivre de Chypre, de Cordoue (ou Marien), des Alpes (Livien), de Gaule (Sallustien) (Plin. HN 34,2–4) –, il est évident que tous ces cuivres arrivent de leurs régions d’origine jusqu’à Rome, donc qu’il existe un commerce de ce métal dans le monde romain. De cuivre, certes, mais aussi de plomb, d’étain, de fer, bref de tous ces métaux utiles dont les usages étaient alors fréquents et dont les auteurs anciens nous...

    • The Grand Scheme of Things. Modelling Coin Production and Coin Distribution in the Roman Empire in the First and Second Centuries AD
      (pp. 253-282)
      Kevin Butcher and Bernhard Woytek

      Movement of coin can take various different forms.¹ Coins can change hands quickly in a narrowly circumscribed area around their minting place, for example – a form of circulation supposedly typical of small change in antiquity. Alternatively, they can move slowly across long distances, a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘coin-drift’ in numismatic studies. Finally, coins can be shipped from one place to another en bloc, either immediately after production or at another point of their life circle. The phenomenon of direct consignments of larger groups of coins has received considerable attention in Roman imperial numismatics in recent years, though the...

    • Evidence for the Importation and Monetary Use of Blocks of Foreign and Obsolete Bronze Coins in the Ancient World
      (pp. 283-354)
      Suzanne Frey-Kupper and Clive Astannard

      Foreign¹ base metal coins have been found at many ancient sites. The numbers are usually small, particularly for coins from distant places. For example, of 12,842 bronze coins of the fifth to the first century BC , from the Agora excavations in very cosmopolitan Athens, 10,780 are Athenian or Eleusinian; 1,140 are from nearby central Greece, Salamis, Aigina and the Peloponnesos; and only 767 (5.97%) come from further afield.² There are 8,608 legible bronze coins from Morgantina (Serra Orlando) in eastern Sicily, not including Roman republican and imperial, and other later coins; if we disregard Sicily 3 and Rhegion, 136...

    • Papyrus Documents for the Study of an Ancient Economy: Methods and Materials from an Egyptian Oasis
      (pp. 355-368)
      Roger S. Bagnall

      The themes laid out for the conference from which this volume results have been close to the centre of my interests for many years, most acutely since 1995, when I was asked to undertake the publication of a codex of wooden boards, found in Colin Hope’s excavations at Kellis in the Dakhla Oasis.¹ These boards, which I have called the Kellis Agricultural Account Book,² give us the internal accounting kept by an estate manager over a period of three years, in the third quarter of the fourth century of our era, probably from 361 to 364. They evoked for me...

    • The Transport of Goods through the Eastern Desert of Egypt. The Archive of the “Camel Driver” Nikanor
      (pp. 369-380)
      Thomas Kruse

      The Eastern Desert of Egypt with its arid climate has always been an environment hostile to life. Nevertheless, during the age of the Roman Empire it was an area of vital importance for the infrastructure and economy not only of Egypt, but also of the empire as a whole, because it connected the Nile valley with the coast of the Red Sea and with the harbours of Berenike Troglodytike and Myos Hormos, through which a considerable amount of the trade with Arabia, East Africa and India was carried out.¹ Two major routes or tracks connected Koptos, the most important emporium...

    • Negotiatores und lokale Märkte in Kleinasien. Überlegungen zu einer Rekonstruktion ländlicher Handelsnetzwerke
      (pp. 381-392)
      Thomas Corsten

      Die römischen publicani und negotiatores haben nicht den besten Ruf, und das wohl zu Recht: Es heißt, sie hätten die Provinzen ausgesaugt und ausschließlich in die eigene Tasche gewirtschaftet. Das ist für die Zeit der römischen Republik wahrscheinlich auch zum größten Teil zutreffend, und als Mithradates VI. von Pontos sich aufmachte, den Römern Kleinasien zu entreißen, wurde er daher von der Bevölkerung unterstützt, die eine Möglichkeit sah, sich der verhaßten Römer bzw. Italiker zu entledigen. Bekanntlich gipfelte dies in der sog. „Ephesischen Vesper“, der tausende von ihnen zum Opfer fielen; aber nicht nur in Ephesos wurden Italiker ermordet; dasselbe wird...

    • Large-Scale Fishing and the Roman Production and Trade in Salted Fish: Some Organizational Aspects
      (pp. 393-408)
      Annalisa Marzano

      Abundant archaeological evidence attests to the volume and geographic range of trade that took place in the Roman era, particularly in the last century of the Republic and the first two centuries of the Empire (1st century BC–2nd century AD). The numerous shipwrecks identified to date enable us to postulate an increase in the total volume of maritime trade in the 1st century BC and 1st century AD.¹ The patterns of distribution of items which survive well in the archaeological record, such as amphorae – the containers used in transmarine and riverine shipments for foodstuffs such as wine, oil, and...

    • Documentary Evidence and the Roman Stone Trade
      (pp. 409-422)
      Ben Russell

      At some point, probably in the early third century AD, a woman from Perge, whose name is now lost, commissioned a sarcophagus for herself and her son; it was decorated in the popular roughed-out garland design so widely attested across western Asia Minor. So as to ensure that the origin of the marble of this sarcophagus (and, presumably, its expense) was understood, the commissioner used the text inscribed on one of its short ends to stress that it was Ðñïêïíçóßïõ – Prokonnesian or, more specifically, carved in the white marble from the island of Prokonnesos (modern Marmara Adasý) in the Sea...

  6. Ancient Iranian Economies

    • Between Deportation and Recruitment: Craftsmen and Specialists from the West in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (from Neo-Assyrian Times through Alexander III)
      (pp. 425-444)
      Robert Rollinger

      Hellenocentrism has characterized the study of all aspects of classical antiquity for centuries. That there was one Greek world and one Greek identity was considered as much a fact as a unique Greek way in world history.¹ It was supposed to have essentially generated from within itself, in a special relationship with the so-called western world. These premises have begun to be questioned with increasing frequency in recent years, even though mainstream scholarship remains wedded to them. As a result, the idea of the unity of the Greek world yielded to a conception which emphasized regional differences and their special...

    • Wege durch Parthien – Straßen, Handelsrouten und Kommunikation im Arsakidenreich
      (pp. 445-472)
      Udo Hartmann

      Das Reich der Parther bestand 471 Jahre; von der Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. bis zu ihrem Sturz 224 n. Chr. beherrschten die Arsakiden ein gewaltiges Gebiet vom Euphrat bis nach Zentralasien, dennoch wissen wir über das Partherreich nur sehr wenig. Selbstzeugnisse haben sich kaum erhalten, und die westlichen griechischen und lateinischen Autoren nehmen die Parther vor allem als Gegner der Seleukiden und Römer wahr, schildern vorwiegend die Konflikte und diplomatischen Beziehungen. Für die inneren Strukturen, die Institutionen und die Gesellschaft der Parther haben sich die westlichen Autoren dagegen kaum interessiert; hier werden die Parther zumeist mit Topoi und...

    • Some Remarks on the Patterns of Coin Production in the Parthian Empire
      (pp. 473-496)
      Fabrizio Sinisi

      A comprehensive monetary history of Parthian Iran is still beyond our reach.¹ Despite its early beginnings, Parthian numismatics has in several respects lagged behind other fields of numismatic research, and in-depth work carried out with sound methodological approaches is the exception rather than the rule. This has largely to do with objective problems, mainly substantial gaps in the documentation, especially connected to the difficulties of a far from regular rhythm of the archaeological activities. So far only two of the main mint cities of the Parthian Empire, Seleucia and Susa, have been the object of large-scale excavations which provided abundant...

    • Sasanian Mints – Where and Why?
      (pp. 497-518)
      Nikolaus Schindel

      This contribution poses in its title two questions. The first one can largely be answered today; the second question is posed here, as far as I can see, for the first time, which in itself already implies that a comprehensive answer is not yet possible. Comparing the little data (or rather assumptions) we have at our disposal for the rationale behind mint locations in Sasanian Iran with the much better-documented (even if by far not certain) situation in the Roman Empire at least shows that basic differences existed between these two states, even if they cannot all be explained today....

  7. Contributors to this Volume
    (pp. 519-520)