This introductory chapter provides an overview of the economic development of the ancient Mediterranean. From ca. 700 BCE onward, state formation began to have a positive influence on economic activities. A practical reason why that might have been the case readily comes to mind: states provided a transportation infrastructure, aiding traders in their mercantile endeavors. Indeed, rulers decided on the creation of Mediterranean harbors, including some of the largest and most famous ones. Apart from facilitating overseas shipping, the construction of harbors had a stimulating economic effect by integrating public and private monetary flows. Thus, the book studies the economic role of states, focusing on two central tenets. First, state formation and consolidation had an aggregate positive effect on the economy of the ancient Mediterranean, starting in the Late Iron Age and peaking sometime in the Roman imperial period. Second, one should not ascribe that effect to ancient states acting as third-party enforcers of private property rights.
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