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Economies of Archaic Sicily: The Archeological Evidence from the Northeastern Euboian Settlements

  • Author(s): Rygorsky, Joel Morris
  • Advisor(s): Mackil, Emily
  • et al.

This dissertation concerns the economic history of a group of four Sicilian Greek settlements during the archaic period (c.730-490 B.C.), Naxos, Katane, Leontinoi, and Zankle, all located on the north or east coast, and all purportedly settled by Euboians. The modern historiography on this issue has thus far prioritized the testimony of ancient literary sources, leaving archaeological evidence comparatively underutilized. The body of evidence I use to conduct this study consists primarily of the information and artifacts recovered through excavation of these sites. Such an approach deviates from modern study of the "ancient economy," and the economies of these four places in particular. The aim is to create an understanding of the early economies of these settlements, and to examine the ways in which their economies thrived and evolved through the introduction of coinage at the end of the sixth century.

Naxos, Leontionoi, Katane, and Zankle were all born in a peak period of mobility and connectivity. The very existence of apoikiai such as these depended upon the movement of large numbers of people over a long distance, and their subsequent growth and success hinged in large part upon the continual movement of both people and goods over distances both long and short. However, even in the circumstance of intense redistribution fostered by the condition of hyperconnectivity, production must have remained a necessary and key component of the economy of any permanent settlement. From the moment in the archaeological record that we can detect their presence, Greek settlers at Naxos, Leontinoi, Katane, and Zankle were engaging in acts of production and redistribution. The original rationale for each individual settlement need not matter, and its consideration may in fact prove counterproductive for these understanding the structure and functioning of economic life. For the initial idea of these places, in addition to not being recoverable in any sort of reliable way, may not necessarily bear a correlation to what they eventually or even quickly became. When considering the economies of these settlements during the archaic period, the question is not whether they were fully formed and functioning systems consisting of regular and robust acts of production, redistribution and consumption, but rather how the structure of these three basic sectors of economic activity enabled, impeded, altered, or generally affected one another.

This dissertation is divided into three chapters. Chapter one addresses questions of evidence, historiography, and approach. In it I discuss the merits and drawbacks of the two main categories of evidence available for the study of Greek economies in the archaic period: literary and archaeological evidence. After examining the epistemological shortcomings of heavy reliance on literary sources, I argue that previous approaches to the study of economies in the archaic Greek west have been unduly constrained by the impressions that ancient testimonia give. I examine further the modern historiography by discussing the ways in which the framing of the question through colonial analogies and comparison with modern market economics has distorted our view of ancient practice. Finally, I lay out the basic approach that I take in the remainder of the dissertation, focusing on the potential utility of combining archaeological data with assumptions about cultural and economic interactions that have been constructed--in particular in Horden and Purcell's The Corrupting Sea¬--for understanding the unique environmental and cultural circumstances of the ancient Mediterranean.

Chapter two is the empirical heart of the dissertation; in it I systematically present and describe the archaeological evidence for archaic Naxos, Leontinoi, Katane, and Zankle. The archaeological evidence is divided chronologically into two periods. The first of these covers the period c.730-650, and captures the evidence for economic activity from the foundation of each settlement through the first few generations of their growth. With the second period, c.650-490, I examine the evidence for the period of apparent large-scale growth that began in the second half of the seventh century, and also look at the introduction of coinage at Zankle and Naxos toward the end of the sixth century. Within each period, information is organized first by site, and then by type of context. Preliminary analysis of the data is provided, with a view toward the more synthetic discussion that is largely reserved for chapter three.

Chapter three combines the results of chapters one and two, applying the assumptions laid out in the first chapter to the evidence organized in the second chapter to create a diachronic analysis of different types of economic activity at Naxos, Leontinoi, Katane, and Zankle from c.750 to c. 490 B.C. Here the argument for the central role that connectivity played in the structure of the economies of these settlements is laid out in full. I begin by using the archaeological evidence in order to demonstrate how highly interconnected these places were. I then argue that this connectivity, because of the large and consistent volume of imported things, people, and information, had a direct impact on the structural development of the economies of the four settlements under study. Large scale participation in the wider world of redistribution became the preferred means of risk management, which in turn may have led to an increase of specialization in local production choices, both agricultural and otherwise. I also use the evidence of the early coinages of Naxos and Zankle in order to argue for the prevalence of regional economic transactions within the larger scheme of mobility and connectivity in which these places existed.

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