"Technical progress, economic growth, productivity, even efficiency have not been significant goals since the beginning of time," declares M. I. Finley in his classic work. The states of the ancient Mediterranean world had no recognizable real-property market, never fought a commercially inspired war, witnessed no drive to capital formation, and assigned the management of many substantial enterprises to slaves and ex-slaves. In short, to study the economies of the ancient world, one must begin by discarding many premises that seemed self-evident before Finley showed that they were useless or misleading. Available again, with a new foreword by Ian Morris, these sagacious, fertile, and occasionally combative essays are just as electrifying today as when Finley first wrote them.
M. I. Finley, who died in 1986, was Professor of Ancient History and Master of Darwin College at Cambridge University. Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor in Classics and Chair of the Classics Department at Stanford University.
"The Ancient Economy holds pride of place among the handful of genuinely influential works of ancient history. This is Finley at the height of his remarkable powers and in his finest role as historical iconoclast and intellectual provocateur. It should be required reading for every student of pre-modern modes of production, exchange, and consumption."—Josiah Ober, author of Political Dissent in Democratic Athens