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They developed governments and organized their citizens according to some sort of constitution or set of laws. They raised armies and collected taxes. And every one of these city-states known as poleis was said to be protected by a particular god or goddess, to whom the citizens of the polis owed a great deal of reverence, respect and sacrifice.
The largest, Sparta , controlled about square miles of territory; the smallest had just a few hundred people. However, by the dawn of the Archaic period in the seventh century B. Also, most had overthrown their hereditary kings, or basileus, and were ruled by a small number of wealthy aristocrats. These people monopolized political power. For example, they refused to let ordinary people serve on councils or assemblies. They also monopolized the best farmland, and some even claimed to be descended from the Greek gods.
Emigration was one way to relieve some of this tension. Land was the most important source of wealth in the city-states; it was also, obviously, in finite supply. The pressure of population growth pushed many men away from their home poleis and into sparsely populated areas around Greece and the Aegean. Between B. By the end of the seventh century B. Each of these poleis was an independent city-state. In this way, the colonies of the Archaic period were different from other colonies we are familiar with: The people who lived there were not ruled by or bound to the city-states from which they came.
The new poleis were self-governing and self-sufficient. As time passed and their populations grew, many of these agricultural city-states began to produce consumer goods such as pottery, cloth, wine and metalwork. Trade in these goods made some people—usually not members of the old aristocracy—very wealthy.
These people resented the unchecked power of the oligarchs and banded together, sometimes with the aid of heavily-armed soldiers called hoplites, to put new leaders in charge. These leaders were known as tyrants. Rather, it seems to insinuate that we are dealing with a subsistence agricultural system. However, Hesiod51 and Aristophanes52 pointed out that growers regularly exchanged products in the market.
Leaving aside all those who underline the exploitation of ancient householders, the most remarkable fact is the coincident statement on the existence of a large class of independent growers not obliged to supply a regular surplus. At first, this idea has been developed for the Athenian case, but it is now being applied to the Greek world during the late Archaic and Classical period. On the autourgos and democratic polis, see Carter 76— The situation of the Peloponnesian autourgoi was perhaps a result of their dependency on the resources of their own land, while, according to what Pericles points out soon after in the same speech, the Athenians had abundant lands in the islands and in the continent under the cleruchy system.
See Thucydides 1. It is much sounder to take it for granted, as a starting point, that for ages peasant economies have had a double orientation towards both. Even Ste. Croix , , —89, who set peasants inside the exploited class, should recognise that Greek democracy meant for the small producer a true protection against exploitation.
On the contrary, it has been also affirmed that they would not be peasants but farmers, since they lacked a specific traditional culture.
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But their relative austerity should not deceive us. The testimonies of Aristophanes already examined point out that the Attic georgos could combine various kinds of cultivation, which supposes a way of intensifying production. In you he always firmly set the stem of the olive tree, and decorated you with the vines of Bacchus. He made you abundantly fruitful with grain, and drawing out the channels of water he made you rich in vegetables and fruit.
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So in return lie gently round his aged head, and dress yourself in flowers of spring. In my view, there are three main factors to consider. In the first place, the dis- tribution of the land in regular and relatively equal plots has been verified throughout the Greek world and especially in colonial regions. Now see McInerney 22— The buildings that archaeological surveys have found in the Greek countryside have been considered a possible indication of these patterns.
Were those buildings applied only to storage? Or did the agriculturalists use them to live in their own farms? The problem is to establish if farmers lived scattered in isolated farms or grouped in villages — or in the urban centres of small cities — from where they walked each morning to their farms.
The sources are not conclusive, which has made it possible to maintain two conflicting explanations from the same case. In effect, the study of Attic patterns of residence has been used to suggest that nucleated settlements were an essential feature, with the exception of the deme of Atene where isolated farmhouses were the rule.
See for instance Sophocles, Trachiniai 32—33; Aristotle, Poli- tics a 9— For comparative perspectives see Forbes ; cf. Bentley See for instance Lysias Semple ; Finley [1st ed. See for instance Demosthenes 55; Euripides, Electra. See also Nevett ; Nagle 68 n. On horoi see Finley [1st ed. Morris ; Many of these sites have been judged as isolated farm- houses which would be derived from a demographic growth and would be associ- ated with an intensive farming linked to the market.
As Osborne has pointed out, residence on isolated farms allowed exploiting compact land plots with a more varied labour force, but it could be more risky. On the other hand, living in nucleated villages supposed a fragmented holding in which the landscape was worked less efficiently, since the closest lots received more attention than the distant ones, but with a more regular yield in most years.
Geography, Environment, and Archaeology in Greece
Farmers cannot be pinned down in the archaeological record to dispersed farmsteads. Recent archaeological surveys have uncovered evidence of scattered buildings, but their function is disputed. They are unlikely to include many ordinary peasant farm- houses, which would not have survived the ravages of time.
In any case, the argu- ment for the prevalence of intensive farming does not depend on farmers residing on their properties rather than in nearby nucleated settlements. It is clear that the information for each case is essential; but even so it is necessary to recognise the significance of the inter- pretations and hypotheses proposed by researchers. Therefore, in a general view, a mix of both isolated and nucleated models seems to better explain the testimonies and the different explanations suggested.
See also Jameson 94—95; Bintliff ; ; Hanson 50—60, —78; and recently Whitley —99; Corvisier ; Hansen ; Bintliff a; b. Initially, no model can be assumed to be exhaustive when it is applied to the rural structure of the Greek polis, because it is a fantasy to establish a typical Greek peasant or farmer. First of all, it is possible to point out a difference between larger and smaller households in ac- cordance with the farm size and the number of family members, namely all those who eat or have eaten from the same food. More lands can be worked when the family is growing up, and the opposite occurs when it declines.
In a larger context, those differences were related to, on the one hand, centrifugal forces caused by partition of the prosperous households and, on the other hand, the fusion or extinction of the poor ones. So, the differentiation and levelling of farmsteads were tendencies which were balanced through multidirectional and cyclical household movements. These phases lead us to modify the fixed image that only explains the extremes of the social spectrum; that is, the poor cultivator that supplemented his 77 See Garnsey See also Chayanov [1st ed.
Gallant outlines that life cycle depends on the different ages that the domestic unit goes through: the farm can be bigger or smaller according to these stages. But since in ancient Greece there was not a redistributive commune like the Russian mir, parcelling, fragmentation, gift, dowry, sale or lease became the mechanisms by means of which households were able to incorporate the necessary lands to achieve a balance between means and needs. Indeed, the small producers could sometimes obtain a marketable surplus con- sistent with the cycles already mentioned, or could reserve it to deal with the risk of famine.
So, poor households might adopt an intensive cultivation to assure their sub- sistence, while the rich ones might develop an intensive farming to get a profit. Be- tween both behaviours, there was a range of possibilities derived from the cyclical tendencies and those circumstances that rural economies could not control nature, markets, political situation, etc. This does not imply that we must define as farmer the cultivator who was able to make money, and as peasant the one who was not able to do so, but rather the existence of two patterns of behaviour derived from the adaptation strategies.
Accordingly, it is acceptable to use one category or another, or even to propose conjunctions such as peasant-farmer or farmer-peasant. But the important question is to think through dynamic models that allow taking into account the social and eco- nomic mobility that the family units could develop. I would also like to thank the anony- mous reviewers for many useful suggestions. Settlement, agriculture and erosion in the territory of Halieis in the late classical—early Hellenistic period.
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Agriculture in ancient Greece
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