Corinth And Its Economy Essay, Research Paper
CORINTH AND ITS ECONOMY
Present and past cultures have many similarities. One similarity comes to mind that stands above them all. I m referring to the comparison of today s stock market to the exchange of goods within the ancient cities of Greece, in particular, the city of Corinth.
One of the most economically important communities in ancient Greece was the city of Corinth. But what made Corinth, or Korinthos as known in those times, such a vital part of the country s commerce? After searching for an answer, I learned that Corinth s most advantageous asset was its geography. Corinth was favorably situated for trade by land and by sea. Located on the narrow Isthmus that connects southern and central Greece, Corinth possessed a unique location compared to any other city (Sacks 1995:66). This site not only allowed Corinth to manage the traffic along the Isthmus, but also made it simple to control passage between the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
Another advantage given to this city was the development of a special roadbed built across the Isthmus enabling transshipment of cargo between seas. This emerged as a tremendous benefit to the transport of merchandise as seafarers preferred to avoid the arduous voyage around the tip of southern Greece. Additionally, the development of the roadbed earned Corinth significant revenue from sales and harbor taxes (Martin 1999:1).
Corinth s glory days came in the 600s and early 500s B.C. Not only did its shipping network stand above other cities, but it also became a manufacturing center for many products (Sacks 1995:66). As the city prospered, Corinth became famous for its skilled workers in bronze and clay amid the rest of the mercantile world. Among other products, beautifully painted pottery became one of the main exports of Corinth. Its Geometric pottery dominated all markets during this period. It became a luxury item even outside the Greek culture (Grant 1986:187). Excavations in other cultural sites, to include Egypt, have revealed archaeological evidence of the extend of Corinth s market.
Pottery clearly possessed significant trade value. It provided the means to obtain products not available or found within Corinth s boundaries. An important part of Corinth s economy was the exchange of pottery and other finished commodities for iron, lead, and bronze (Univ. of Pennsylvania 1996:1). Additionally grains and lumber among other products were imported in exchange for pottery. One benefit of pottery was its ability to store. Pottery became very practical in the manufacturing and storage of wine and olive oil to name a few. Smaller pottery turned out to be useful in the perfume industry as well.
Another manufacturing area where Corinthians excelled was in shipbuilding. As lumber became available, Shipbuilding proved critical to expanding the transport of goods by sea. Corinth became famous for its accomplished ship builders and naval architects (Discovery.com 2001:1). To defend the trade industry, they developed some of the most advanced and fastest warships of their time. Without ships, trade would have been very limited and the economy of cities like Corinth would have taken much longer to prosper.
One of the interesting facts I discovered throughout my research was the foundation of colonies by Corinth. It seems that in order for the city to prosper, it needed to extend its boundaries. Corinth established colonies included the island of Corcyra off Epirus, and at Syracuse in eastern Italy (Britannica.com 1999-2000:1). It was vital for cities like Corinth to control areas beyond its boundaries in order to expand the economy. Corinth dispatched skilled craftsmen and artists to its colonies as a way of monopolizing their exporting capabilities.
Another key factor in this city s economy was the development of coinage. Prior to this development, their way of doing business was based on a lateral exchange. I give you so much of this; you give me so much of that. Coins improved this relationship and enabled them to accumulate wealth in a greater scale. Although the use of metal as a standard of value had been familiar in far away lands, the practice of stamping the pieces of metal officially guaranteed their weight and their purity (Grant 1986:188). No longer would a merchant have to trade for bulky goods that required storage; instead he could trade for coinage which was easily stored and more practical to carry around.
With its continuing economical prosperity, Corinth became the foremost Greek port and manufacturing center. Homer and other poets described the city as aphneios meaning wealthy (Sacks 1995:66). Corinth became well known around Greece for its love for luxury and pleasure (Garber 1978:128). Like any famous city, its architecture attracted large crowds. Its temples and theaters were used for recitals, debates, and plays. They provided visitors with entertainment in all sorts of ways. Among its most profitable tourist attractions were the sacred prostitutes at the Temple of Aphrodite (Engels 1990:4). With all the traffic the city experienced, it would be hard to ignore how tourism played such an important part of the city s revenue.
As you can see, there were many factors that affected Corinth s economy. In my opinion, Corinth seemed to have it all figured out. They dominated trade by sea or land in all aspects. They expanded their territories creating a commercial link others envied. They manufactured products valued highly around the world. But most of all, they created the blueprints for a successful trade and market economy.