Trade In Ancient Greece
When
we discuss the economics of the ancient world, we must be careful not to use the
formal Economics which we employ in analyzing our own society, since Economics
is a function of the way a society runs, not the set of rules under which a
given society operates. We cannot remove ourselves from awareness of the
economic disciplines which our schools teach, and even if we formally try to
suspend Economics as a framework, we retain the image of the economic framework
in our language and our general pool of ideas. Yet some distancing of ourselves
from modern economic theory is necessary in starting an investigation of a
foreign world, in order to let the economic operations of that world display
themselves in their own documentation. We must construct some kind of
intellectual tabula rasa for use in studying an area which is far removed in
time and from a documentary point of view relatively unknown. When we speak of

Economics of the Ancient World, we usually think of the work pioneered by

Rostovtzeff and his followers, of the interpretation of history from an economic
point of view, and of the study of epigraphic and papyrological materials which
bear on costs and commodities. But there is a much earlier layer of historical
material, which strangely is incorporated in the quasi-religious cloak of Greek

Mythology. When one compares the myths of ancient Greece with those of ancient

India, one sees that the Indian myths are essentially spiritual in nature, while
the Greek myths show a disorganized array of unconvincing religion, erratic
personal histories, and what appear to be fragmented chapters in the history of
the rise of civilization after the last glacial retreat. It is the thesis of
this paper that parts of the early Greek, and even the pre-Greek historical
record became embalmed in the Greek myths, which themselves were rigidified into
literary storytelling by the time of the Hellenistic academies, and finally
petrified into the "myth systems" of Apollodoros and others, before
being buried by a hostile Christianity. The fact that the Greek myths were
rediscovered in the Renaissance, popularized in the l8 th century throughout

Europe, and re-popularized recently by several unscholarly myth-enthusiasts,
gives us the feeling that we know a great deal more about Greek mythology than
we do. We know most of the story-lines well, but we are largely ignorant of
their original use and meaning. The familiar story of Gyges as told by Herodotos
marks the appearance of a new kind of public person, someone unknown who
"appears out of the earth" as the ancient saying goes, and attains
power largely by virtue of being totally unseen. Gyges , a young Lydian
shepherd, found a cave one day which he entered and found in it (according to

Plato\'s account) a hollow cast-brass horse with a dead man\'s body inside. He
discovered that the ring which he pulled off the dead man\'s finger made him
invisible when he put it on his finger. Using this newfound power, he went to
the palace of Candaules, king of Lydia, the last of a long line of Heracleid
royalty, first seduced the queen, then with her help killed the king and took
his place as ruler of the country. In a world of hereditary kings, the history
of Gyges points to a new kind of person who gets riches and power specifically
by not being seen. Working invisibly he creates a new kind of enterprise, in
which "the transaction" serves as the unseen interface between buyer
and seller. This opens a way for unknown people like Trimalchio in l st c. A.D.

Rome (as documented in Petronius\' incisive novel) who owes his fortune to a
sharp eye on the abstract flow of funds, although he started life on the lowest
rung of the social ladder. , For us this is a familiar pattern, many fortunes
have been made in exactly the same way in modern times, one thinks of

Rockefeller, Carnegie, Schliemann, Onassis, Ford and more recently the Korean

Samsung company\'s founder, Lee Byung Cheul. However these economics dynasties of
the modern world seldom produce an effective son and almost never a grandson,
they are first and foremost the work of an individual who only becomes known
after his empire is fully constructed. The history of Gyges has a clear meaning.

Instead of inheriting vast wealth along with the title of king, this new
"invisible" man grasps wealth by being perceptive and guileful, traits
which throughout the ages have been proven as the best attributes of the
successful businessman. With Gyges starts a long chain of little