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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY

From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS

II. THE GREAT AGE OF THE GREEK REPUBLICS TO 362 B.C.

Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe
Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe


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Page 17

SLAVERY

There were many thousands of slaves in Athens and Attica at this period. Their number was so great and their labor so cheap that we may think of them as taking the place of modern machines. It was the slaves who did most of the work on the large estates owned by wealthy men, who toiled in the mines and quarries, and who served as oarsmen on the ships. The system of slavery enabled many an Athenian to live a life of leisure, but it lowered the dignity of labor and tended to prevent the rise of the poorer citizens to positions of responsibility. In Greece, as in the Orient, slavery cast its blight over free industry.

COMMERCIAL ATHENS

The Athenian city was now the chief center of Greek commerce. [14] "The fruits of the whole earth," said Pericles, "flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other Commercial countries as freely as of our own." [15] Exports of Athens wine and olive oil, pottery, metal wares, and objects of art were sent out from Piraeus to every region of the Mediterranean. The imports from the Black Sea region, Thrace, and the Aegean included such commodities as salt, dried fish, wool, timber, hides, and, above all, great quantities of wheat. Very much as modern England, Athens was able to feed all her people only by bringing in food from abroad. To make sure that in time of war there should be no interruption of food supplies, the Athenians built the celebrated Long Walls, between the city and its port of Piraeus. (See the map below) Henceforth they felt secure from attack, as long as their navy ruled the Aegean.

[14] The commercial importance of Athens is indicated by the general adoption of her monetary standard by the other Greek states. (For illustrations of Greek coins see the plate facing page 134.)

[15] Thucydides, ii, 38.

ARTISTIC AND INTELLECTUAL ATHENS

In the days of her prosperity Athens began to make herself not only a strong, but also a beautiful, city. The temples and other structures which were raised on the Acropolis during the Age of Pericles still excite, even in their ruins, the envy and wonder of mankind. [17] Athens at this time was also the center of Greek intellectual life. In no other period of similar length have so many admirable books been produced. No other epoch has given birth to so many men of varied and delightful genius. The greatest poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece were Athenians, either by birth or training. As Pericles himself said in a noble speech, Athens was "the school of Hellas." [18]

[17] For a description of Athens in classical times, see Davis', A Day in Old Athens.

[18] Thucydides, ii, 41.

 

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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY: Table of Contents

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Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy

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