Economy of Ancient Greece


The economy of Ancient Greece was based on three great activities: agriculture, commerce and crafts.

The economy of Ancient Greece developed roughly between 1,200 BC and 146 BC.

In the Hellenistic period, great economic advances were introduced such as the generalized use of the currency, the figure of the bankers and the appearance of great merchants.

The Agriculture

The three main crops of the Greek economy were the vine, the cereals and the olive trees. However, due to the nature of the Greek terrain, in which mountains were abundant, there came a time when Greek crops were not enough to guarantee self-sufficiency. Hence, in the face of insufficient agricultural production, the crops of the colonies were used.

At that time, Greek agriculture was characterized by intensive use of labor. Regarding the agricultural techniques used, the Greeks resorted to crop rotation.

However, livestock did not have such a deep development and was used to complement agriculture. The most common species in Ancient Greece were goats and sheep, without neglecting pig, cattle, equine and donkeys.

Trade and Finance in Ancient Greece

Due to its geographical location and an indigenous agriculture that was not enough to supply grain to all of Greece, an important development of trade by sea took place.

For Greece and its trade, the development of important merchant fleets was decisive. Thus, the main points of exchange for the Greeks were Egypt, Italy and areas of Libya such as Cyrenaica. On the other hand, the Aegean islands, became intermediate points in the main routes of maritime trade.

The main import for the Greeks was wheat, although the importance of other imported raw materials such as papyrus and wood must also be taken into account. As for exports, the Greeks sold olive oil, wine and ceramics abroad.

It should not be forgotten that, in those days, not only were they traded in raw materials, but there was also a generalized trade in slaves. Precisely the source of this slave trade was prisoners captured in wars, piracy and banditry.

The sustained growth of trade in Hellenistic Greece led to the emergence of a banking system in which loans were made in cash. In this way, numerous merchants financed their expeditions through loans, as well as peasants requested advances for the collection of their crops.

The development of this type of finance allowed banks to store precious metals and carry out currency exchange tasks, as well as to establish the terms in which collections and payments were made. Undoubtedly, they were of great importance in financing trade and transport. The bank was not only private, but towards the 4th century BC. C. already the first state banks were created, that offered financing to States and individuals.

Taxes in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, the spoils of war served as a source of income and wealth for the kings, to which had to be added the collection of taxes on other people's property.

There were a great variety of direct taxes, such as those paid by artisans, doctors, writers, lawyers, and large fortunes. Even foreigners and freedmen had to pay personal taxes. Also the leasing of land, fishing, commerce (customs, loading and unloading of merchandise in ports), the acquisition of citizenship rights and mining were subject to the payment of taxes.

A good part of the budget was destined to the maintenance of the religious temples and to finance the cost of the army. Other expenses were the salaries of civil servants and the construction of public works.


The development of crafts had special relevance in the economic activity of Ancient Greece. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the importance of activities such as ceramics and metal, also taking into account the weight of other handicrafts related to wood and textiles.

To all this we must add that the basic work unit in Greek crafts was the workshop and that, in this sector, slave labor was sometimes used.

With regard to ceramics, products such as vessels, plates and oil lamps were modeled. It should be noted that these types of articles had domestic and religious purposes.

As for metallurgy, bronze foundries were vital for the production of weapons, armor and shields, while wood craftsmen were responsible for the construction of merchant fleets and war fleets in the shipyards.

Likewise, the construction also required the participation of numerous artisans, among which it is worth mentioning the work of stonemasons, carpenters and sculptors and painters who were in charge of the elements of adornment and decoration.

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