Trade was a very predominant feature in Ancient Greek times. The people of Ancient Greece were also concerned about making new trade routes. The Ancient Greek trade routes included both overland routes of trade and nautical routes of trade. While many of these trade routes were famous for different commodities, some of them passed through Archaic Greece. Trade was an important activity in Ancient Greece which is validated by the various trade routes we come across. The Ancient Greek soil was not of very good quality and was largely unfit for agriculture. Hence, the majority of the population had to depend upon trade as a means of survival and livelihood and most of the commodities had to be imported from the surrounding lands and areas. The intensity of trade and the influence of Hellenic cultures were directly proportional to each other. Thus as the power and influence of the Hellenic nations grew, so did the intensity of trade.
Before going into the various kinds of trade routes found across the Hellenic and Ancient Greek worlds, it is necessary to first describe a trade route. A trade route can be described as a specific path along which trade was carried on. The Ancient Greek trade routes were mostly on land. These were the overland trade routes. Most of them crossed and connected the entire old world. The use of beasts of burden and caravans helped in the development of the overland trade routes. They were the very primitive types of trade routes that helped in the process of connecting various areas of the world under one grand umbrella of trade contacts.
Along with the overland trade routes, the maritime trade routes also made their appearance. This was however a gradual development. Ships plied on well-known maritime routes to carry on trading activities. The Ancient Greek trade routes were generally named after the predominant commodity which was traded along that route. Such was the case with most of the popular and active trade routes of the ancient world order.
Effects of the Creation of Trade Routes
The development of the various trade routes by the Ancient Greeks opened them and their world to an entirely new set of worlds that were far more varied, different, and dynamic. New experiences were met during their trade with Britain, Asia Minor, or some other part of the world. These people met new people, came across different new items, and embarked on new voyages. Altogether they became very refreshing centers of activity for the Ancient Greek people. They became a complete part of the cross-cultural world, a world that got connected through contact.
New civilizations were encountered, new areas were visited and new identities were created. These trade routes would carry out new expeditions and would in many cases be followed by the future emperors to embark on new conquests. Thus there was an all-encompassing benefit as far as the creation of trade routes was concerned in Ancient Greece. It was a boon beyond trade relations and went across several spheres and arenas. It was nowhere simply limited to the economic level of the masses. It also had an overall impact on the social and political lives of the people.
Origin of the Ancient Greek Trade Routes
In order to understand the evolution of the Ancient Greece trade routes, it is necessary to know about the trading structure that was prevalent in Ancient Greece. Then only one can come to the trade routes that were in use for the export and import of certain trading commodities.
- Due to the existence of a poor resource base, trade developed from an early phase in Ancient Greece. Food grains were the main item of import followed by textile, timber, iron, silver, and linen. As contacts grew, more exotic items like spices and precious gemstones also began to be imported from the outside world.
- The major exports consisted of marble, wine, olive oil, and pottery.
- As trade flourished in Ancient Greece, small Ancient Greek trading enclaves began to be established. Later, some of them would coalesce together to form the Ancient Greece trade routes.
- Apart from the overland trade routes, Ancient Greek trade routes were often nautical in nature.
- Athens and Corinth were two important trading nations and both specialized in seaborne trade.
- Athens, in particular, became a formidable naval power.
- The nautical trade routes in Ancient Greece generally passed through the Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean Sea, and the Black Sea. The places of importance on these Ancient Greek trade routes were Syracuse, Sicily, Greek Crete, and Cyprus.
- The Ancient Greek trade routes expanded fast with the conquests of Alexander the Great. He was a major catalyst in the rapid development of the various trade routes. Contact already existed with places in Asia Minor and Persia.
- After his invasions, trade routes were opened up connecting Ancient Greece with South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India and through them also to China.
- One of the oldest known overland trade routes is the “Lapis Lazuli route.” This semi-precious stone was exported from Afghanistan to Europe. This route may have touched Ancient Greece.
- The Spice Route and the Silk route definitely passed through some areas of Ancient Greece. They connected Asia with Europe and Africa.
Significance/Importance of the Ancient Greek Trade Routes
Trade routes were most significant in creating a stable economy that was to be based on trade and commerce. For any trade to prosper and flourish, there is always the need for a well-planned and chalked-out trade route through which trade would be carried out. Thus it was imperative from the perspective of setting up a trade economy. The major significances are pointed out below-
- Not only commodities, but also the Ancient Greek language, culture, and art were being disseminated by these trade routes.
- Contacts were established with the distant world. These processes were being intensified by these trade routes.
- Such influences can be seen in Ancient Greek craftsmanship and most of the scholarly works which come from this period.
- Finally, the Ancient Greek trade routes were also the center of some conflicts regarding the control of these routes.