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PUBLIC FINANCE AND WAR IN ANCIENT GREECE*

Abstract

Before the Persian Wars the Greeks did not rely on public finance to fight each other. Their hoplites armed and fed themselves. But in the confrontation with Persia this private funding of war proved to be inadequate. The liberation of the Greek states beyond the Balkans required the destruction of Persia's sea power. In 478 bc Athens agreed to lead an alliance to do just this. It already had Greece's largest fleet. But each campaign of this ongoing war would need tens of thousands of sailors and would go on for months. No single Greek city-state could pay for such campaigns. The alliance thus agreed to adopt the Persian method for funding war: its members would pay a fixed amount of tribute annually. This enabled Athens to force Persia out of the Dardanelles and Ionia. But the Athenians also realized that their military power depended on tribute, and so they tightened their control of its payers. In so doing they turned the alliance into an empire.

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Corresponding author
d.pritchard@uq.edu.au
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This article was delivered as a paper at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies. I thank the Centre's Director, Prof. K. Sheedy, for his invitation to be its Senior Research Fellow for 2014. The article draws heavily on D. M. Pritchard, Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens (Austin, TX, 2015). For their helpful comments on the article I am most grateful to A. Florence, D. J. Phillips, C. Pry, P. J. Rhodes and K. A. Raaflaub. All translations of Greek are my own.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

W. R. Connor , ‘Early Greek Land Warfare as Symbolic Expression’, Past & Present 119 (1988), 68

V. Gabrielsen , ‘Finance and Taxes’, in H. Beck (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Greek Government (Chichester, 2013), 342

P. Millett , ‘Finance and Resources: Public, Private, and Personal’, in A. Erskine (ed.), A Companion to Ancient History (Chichester, 2009), 475

P. Harding , ‘Athenian Defensive Strategy in the Fourth Century’, Phoenix 42 (1988), 6871

A. Chaniotis , War in the Hellenistic World. A Social and Cultural History (Oxford, 2005), 117

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Greece & Rome
  • ISSN: 0017-3835
  • EISSN: 1477-4550
  • URL: /core/journals/greece-and-rome
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