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 Startseite » Geschichte  » Wirtschafts- & Gesellschaftsgeschichte 

Wirtschaft und Technologie im antiken Griechenland

Übersetzt aus dem Griechischen von Panagiotis Anastasiou

228 Seiten ·  34,80 EUR (inklusive MwSt. und Versand)
ISBN 978-3-89518-655-4 (Februar 2008 )

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Es gab bislang noch keine Untersuchung über die Verbindung der Technologie mit der Wirtschaft und, allgemeiner, über die Auswirkungen der Technologie auf das ökonomische Leben der alten Griechen. Die vorliegende Studie, die sich nicht auf technische Details oder Informationen bezieht, hat das Ziel, die Stellung der Technologie und der Ökonomie im antiken Griechenland zum Vorschein zu bringen. Gegenstand ist dabei nicht nur die Lokalisierung von gewissen technologischen Errungenschaften, sondern auch der Rahmen, in dem die entsprechenden Bedürfnisse entstanden sind, der Einfallsreichtum, mit dem die alten Griechen diese Bedürfnisse zu decken verstanden sowie die Auswirkungen, die die Einführung der neuen Technologie auf die Ökonomie hatte.

HEI 2009, No. 3, S. 132-133 ()

"In fact, this monograph offers a user-friendly reflection on some of the technology and economics underlying ancient Greek society. Contrary to what its title might suggest, it does so, not on the basis of archaeological or material evidence, but primarily through the lense of classical literary carriers of ideas. As such it should appeal, no doubt, to the readership of this journal, not in the least if once upon a time they painstakingly tried to make sense of the classics too, but were never allowed to take a glance at the technological wonders and economic insights they secretively contain.

The central part of this book, which successively highlights significant developments in agricultural, industrial and communications technology, is flanked by a few introductory and concluding chapters that explicitly seek to set them into their proper intellectual context. In chapters 2 and 3 coryphaei of the Greek epic, tragic, and philosophic scene are invoked to describe both mythical and rational attempts to explain the development of civilization. They are also expected to shed light on the harbingers of the economics of labour division, innovation and incentive theory - as documented pre-eminently in Plato's dialogues. At the same time, much weight is given to the high esteem in which authorities like Hesiod, Aischylos, or Xenophon allegedly held technology and its inventors. Chapter 8 seems to suggest that we should limit our prejudices about the supposedly negative view the Ancients took of progress and material prosperity to Hellenistic culture of the last three centuries bc, and its inner happiness movements of Cynicism and Stoicism in particular.

Yet, granted that the case for a positive assessment by the Greek elite of progress through technology and the improvement of material living conditions can truly be made, certainly there are more easy ways to defend it. Take the first pages of the first chapter (13-14), for instance. Here, Aristotele's Mechanics is quoted to demonstrate that authoritative sources were praising 'machinery' (the German text tendentiously translates the Greek 'mèchanè' as «Maschine») as that part of art par excellence which helps man in overcoming his natural needs. Now this is a quite unhappy quote to start from. Though the pseudo-Aristotelian corpus does include a highly interesting, yet quite plain treatise on the mathematical physics of movement indeed, its authorship is fiercely debated in classical scholarship, with some even pointing to a philosopher of the very Hellenistic period as its source of origin. Sophocles' praise of men and his creative inventiveness in Antigone, mentioned later on by the author, would have made a far less tricky starting point of eulogy, then. To be sure, the author proves to be a man of wide reading, with an ability to convey his erudition and enthusiasm in an utmost pedagogical way. One will be quite amused, for example, by his stimulating analysis of the mythical labours of Hercules.

Ever thought about the technological prowess no less than physical power it took for him to re-route the Alpheios and Peneios rivers in order to wash out the Augean stables? Our hero's abilities to steer and to drain waters would be adopted on large scale afterwards from Lake Kopais to the Nile Valley. In addition, chapters 4 and 5 will learn you how the Greeks developed the appropriate legal and political tools for those projects to attract investors, operators, and finally boost the profits of their natural resources based economy. The finance structure for the reclamation of Lake Ptechae around 500 bc and the subsequent extension of arable land, for instance, somehow prefigures modern Build-Operate-Transfer (bot) financing. A rich entrepeneur was granted tax exemption to import all construction materials, a restricted power to disposess people living in areas where a drain canal system had to be digged, a ten years operating licence, and he finally benefitted from special protection in case war would break out. Similar inventiveness in both mechanical and legal technologies was needed in the mining industry, core business at Laureion, depicted in chapter 5. It provided Athens with the silver glistering foundational layers of its economic, military and cultural dominance. The great Themistocles is said to have demanded his citizens in 482 bc to lend back the 10 drachms the city would annually bestow on each of them from its massive mining proceeds, in order that a powerful fleet against the Persians be built. A rough 150 years later, the historian Xenophon would still insist on further striking new silver deposits (the Greek mentions 'kainotomiai', literally meaning 'new cuttings or delvings', rendered quite biasedly, it needs to be said, as «Innovationen » in German) as a principal source of new revenue for the city, given the seemingly inexhaustible nature if its riches (122). Typically, Athens strength turned out to be its major weakness as the Spartans occupied Deceleia during the Peloponesian wars and made the 20,000 strong slave workforce to flee the mines. Having no choice but to look for other financial resources, the Athenians took to the Parthenon and began melting its gold.

After all, slavery was the maint constituant of the labour factor of production in Antiquity - for the worse, as chapter 7 explains, since it quite possibly acted as a hampering substitute to technological development. For need, the Greeks had learnt, was the main driving force behind invention. Driven to the sea by the geographical constraints of their mountainous home lands, many a technology produced by them concerns survival in a watery environment. Chapter 6, which focusses on achievements in communications (alphabet) and transportation (shipbuilding) technology, documents some of them. Archimedes' screw used to remove the bilge water in ships is but one of the most famous examples. Excellent water engineering skills combined with awe for the Gods eventually led to the creation of automatic doors for a temple with the aid of water pumps. Yet this book sadly fails to deal with the fascinating subject of automatic machinery in Antiquity at all. At least by the time it went to press, Wirtschaft und Technologie im alten Griechenland could boast itself on being part of a recent vogue in quality scholarship on the history of ancient technology. As such, those wishing to get down to the bottom of the matter might consider complementing their reading of Baloglou with two other monographs seeking to unravel the magic texture of economic and technological development in Antiquity now written by Serafina Cuomo and Helmuth Schneider respectively. Yet the pedagogically designed and praiseworthy contribution at hand might prove to be the one that ultimately drives you to embark on a journey to the Elysian Fields of ancient technology altogether.

the author
Christos P. Baloglou
Christos P. Baloglou Jg. 1962, studierte Volkswirtschaftslehre und Pädagogik in Athen und Frankfurt a.M. Arbeitsgebiet: Wirtschafts- und Dogmengeschichte. [weitere Titel]
dem Verlag bekannte Rezensionen
  • Historische Zeitschrift Band 290 (2010)
  • HEI 2009, No. 3, S. 132-133 mehr...
  • Hellenic Philosophical Review, Bd. 23, H. 77, Mai 2009, S. 192-195
  • Celestia November 2008
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