This chapter discusses some economic questions during the time of the Greek city-states and the Athenian Empire and later in the age of Rome. The basic industry of both ancient Greece and Rome was agriculture, and the use or consumption of goods was infinitesimal for all but a small governing minority. Aside from the elementary character of economic life in this period, the most important reason that ethical questions were addressed to the exclusion of economic ones in the ancient world was the existence of slavery. The chapter considers the issue of capital, wages, and interest rates in the ancient world, taking into account the ideas of Aristotle on subjects such as money, coinage, and moneymaking, as well as Plato's inclination to communism. It also examines the contribution of the Romans to the history of economic ideas, especially Roman law and private property.
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