The Ancient Economy, Paperback Book

The Ancient Economy Paperback

Part of the Sather Classical Lectures series

2 out of 5 (2 ratings)


"Technical progress, economic growth, productivity, even efficiency have not been significant goals since the beginning of time," declares M.

I. Finley in his classic work. The states of the ancient Mediterranean world had no recognizable real-property market, never fought a commercially inspired war, witnessed no drive to capital formation, and assigned the management of many substantial enterprises to slaves and ex-slaves.

In short, to study the economies of the ancient world, one must begin by discarding many premises that seemed self-evident before Finley showed that they were useless or misleading.

Available again, with a new foreword by Ian Morris, these sagacious, fertile, and occasionally combative essays are just as electrifying today as when Finley first wrote them.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 298 pages, 1 map
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9780520219465



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

The subject matter is fascinating but Finley's writing is inaccessible. For an academic, that's praise. For me, it means that I still haven't managed to wade through it.

Review by

This book was immensely influential in its day. I use "in its day" to point to the out-of-date approach of Finley and his subsequent eclipse. He states that there is essentially no "ancient economy" and that we can't use economic yardsticks to measure what was essentially a status, non-market based economy. He states on page 23: "There was no business cycles in antiquity; no cities whose growth can be ascribed, even by us, to the establishment of manufacture..." I think modern archaeology would disagree with his statement. His method of analysis is textual literary analysis and he even uses remarks uttered by Trimalchio to support his conclusions! Things have come along way. Perhaps better is "The Archaeology of the Roman Economy" by Green. In any case, it's amazing how much classical studies have changed in 35 years.

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