Foreign trade at Athens is fairly well systematized, but
it still partakes of the nature of an adventure. The name for "skipper"
(nauklëros) is often used interchangeably for "merchant." Nearly all
commerce is by sea, for land routes are usually slow, unsafe, and
the average foreign trader is also a shipowner, probably too the actual
working captain. He has no special commodity, but will handle everything
which promises a profit. A war is breaking out in Paphlagonia. Away he
sails thither with a cargo of good Athenian shields, swords, and lances.
He loads up in that barbarous but fertile country with grain; but leaves
enough room in his hold for some hundred skins of choice wine which he
takes aboard at Chios. The grain and wine are disembarked at the Piraeus.
Hardly are they ashore ere rumor tells him that salt herring
are abundant and especially cheap at Corcyra; and off he goes for a
return cargo thereof, just lingering long enough to get on a lading of
Athenian olive oil.