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Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences$
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John Davies and John Wilkes

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265062

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265062.001.0001

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Greek Epigraphy and Ancient Economics

Greek Epigraphy and Ancient Economics

(p.223) 10 Greek Epigraphy and Ancient Economics
Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences

Alain Bresson

British Academy

After initial comments on the role of Greek inscriptions as ‘archives’, this chapter reviews the drastic changes that have occurred since Finley's book of 1973 in the picture of the ancient economy, both by acknowledging development and growth, and by adopting new concepts, not least New Institutional Economics with its emphasis on transaction costs. The methodological impact of such new approaches is sketched in four fields, each of which is illustrated with epigraphic documentation: (1) production and growth, instancing technological advance, land exploitation and textile production; (2) finance, taxes, trade and prices, with emphasis on the need and opportunities for quantification; (3) money and coinage; and (4) the transformation of uncertainty into an assessment of risk, illustrated in respect of farming practices and recourse to consultation of oracles and curse-tablets.

Keywords:   New Institutional Economics, inscriptions, transaction costs, textile production, quantification, risk, Greek oracles, Greek curse-tablets

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