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Economic Theory and the Ancient…

Economic Theory and the Ancient Mediterranean

by Donald W. Jones

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This is a very extraordinary book. As the title says, it is about economic theory and about the ancient Mediterranean. To what extent the book is about the interaction between the one and the other will be the main issue of this review. The combination of the two topics is personified in the author, who, according to the back cover, is both an economic consultant and an adjunct Professor of Classics at the University of Tennessee. He is author of a study on Early Iron Age Crete and co-editor of The Full Costs and Benefits of Transportation: Contributions to Theory, Method and Measurement (Springer, 1997).

The author explains the goal of this massive book – 560 double-columned pages – as providing the student of the history of the early Mediterranean and Aegean region with both basic and relatively advanced economic concepts for understanding the societies, and in particular the economic lives of the peoples in this region in antiquity. The latter term is taken widely, as it encompasses Egyptian and Assyrian society as much as the Classical Antiquity of Greece and Rome. “The present volume provides pure theory, but with an emphasis on the practical applications of the models” (p. xiii). The book is devised in two parts: the first five chapters present the core of economic theory and “serve as textbook as much as handbook”, while the next nine chapters (about three quarters of the book) apply the basic principles of the first chapters to various issues, such as labor, capital, cities and economic growth. In short, the book is meant as a rapid course in economic theory for the ancient historian and archaeologist.
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