Very early on, the geographic position of Greece and the necessity of importing wheat forced the Greek world to engage in maritime Ancient Greek Trading.

Ancient Greek Trading

The areas which provisioned Greece with wheat were Cyrenaica, Egypt, Italy (specifically the Magna Graecia area and Sicily), and regions surrounding the Black Sea.

Ancient Greece Trading

what did ancient Greece import

Athens and Corinth served as way-stations of exchange for the islands of the Aegean Sea. Other imported products included papyrus, spices, fabrics, metals, and shipbuilding materials such as wood, linen, and pitch. For their part, Greek cities exported wine, pottery, and olive oil.

Athens sold marble extracted from Penteli, renown in the Greek world, and also silver coins, known for their elegant workmanship and a high proportion of silver. These served not only as a means of exchange but also as a source of metal: in places that did not use the money, they were melted back into silver. Available sources do not provide enough information to evaluate with moderate precision the volume of goods exchanged in Greek trade.

Ancient Greece Trading

Ancient Greece Money

The main participants in Greek commerce were the class of traders known as emperor. The state collected a duty on their cargo, which in Athens’ port Piraeus was set between 1% and 2%. By the end of the 5th century, the tax had been raised to 33 talents (Andocides, I, 133-134).

In 413, Athens ended the collection of tribute from the Delian League and imposed a 5% duty on all the ports of her empire (Thucydides, VII, 28, 4) in the unrealized hope of increasing revenues. These duties were never protectionist but were merely intended to raise money for the public treasury.

Ancient Greece Trading

Greek Trade

Trade in ancient Greece was free: the state-controlled only the supply of grain. In Athens, after the reorganization of the Athenian government by Cleisthenes in 508-507 BC, following the first meeting of the new Prytaneis, regulations on trade were reviewed, with a specialized committee overseeing the trade in wheat, flour, and bread.

Ancient Greece Trading

The number of shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean Sea provides valuable evidence for the development of trade in the ancient world. Only 2 shipwrecks were found that dated from the 8th century BC.

However, archaeologists have found 46 shipwrecks dated from the 4th century BC, which would appear to indicate that there occurred a very large increase in the volume of trade between these centuries. Considering that the average Greek ship tonnage also increased in the same period, the total volume of trade increased probably by a factor of 30.