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Title: Athenian mercantile community : a reappraisal of the social, political and legal status of inter-regional merchants during the fourth century
Author: Woolmer, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 2749 3650
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2009
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This quotation from Plato's Laws has often been seen as representative of the perception of inter-regional trade and traders held by the majority of classical Greeks. Plato and Aristotle dominate the moral philosophy of the classical world for modern scholars because their works survive in a fairly complete form, whereas, in contrast, the writings of other philosophers of the same era are frequently fragmentary. However, the quality and immediacy of the evidence presented by Plato and Aristotle can be dangerously seductive and, as a result, these works have been given disproportionate importance in previous studies of mercantile operations in the Greek world. In general the picture of merchants and inter-regional exchange that these two men present is very negative. One underlying reason for this negativity is their belief that wealth generated through trade unsettled the balance of society and, in certain circumstances, led to stasis. Rather than being based on the principles of equality and fair exchange, inter-regional commerce was seen as centred on the more aggressive concept of profit maximisation. Plato and Aristotle both saw inter-regional merchants as a symbol of failure for the polis, in its attempts to achieve what they viewed as the ideal state of complete self-sufficiency. Aristotle was to take this a step further, suggesting that the world was regulated by a natural order, an order that was centred on balance and equilibrium. Profit-orientated trade, in Aristotle's opinion, stood opposed to the normal state of equality found in nature, as it sought to upset the natural balance by demanding more for something than it was worth. As a result Aristotle accused inter-regional merchants of perverting the natural order of the world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available