Poiesis: Manufacturing in Classical Athens

ISBN : 9780190494346

Peter Acton
404 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2016
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Poiesis brings together archaeological finds, ancient texts and inscriptions, recent scholarly analysis, and the expertise of modern craftsmen to investigate every known facet of Athens' manufacturing activities. Despite the fact that Athenians consumed great quantities of manufactured goods, and around half of the residents of classical Athens can be shown to have been dependent for survival on manufacturing in some form, the subject has been almost completely neglected by historians. The book draws on the analytical techniques of contemporary business economics-supply and demand, competition theory, and risk-return analysis-to explain events and choices. Manufacturing operations are classified in an original framework that explains why certain segments were suited to the sole craftsman and others to teams of slaves, and deduces earnings potential based upon barriers to entry and competitive differentiation. The result is a new and refreshing angle on how Athenian society operated that complements political, military, and literary perspectives, with important and often surprising implications. Among other insights the analysis shows how fragmented industry structures were fundamental to the workings of Athenian democracy by enabling citizens to supplement their income through casual manufacturing activity.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
A. Athens, the Manufacturing City
B. Original Sources
i. Ancient Literature
ii. Archaeology and Epigraphy
C. Methodology
i. Embeddedness and Empirical Analysis
ii. Theories of Firm Size
iii. The Theory of Competitive Advantage
iv. Competitive Advantage and Industry Structure
v. Applying the Competitive Advantage Framework

Chapter 2: Industry Formation
A. Early Manufacturing
B. Homer and the Households of the Rich
C. Hesiod and the Peasant Economy
D. Empirical Evidence
i. Metalworking
ii. Leatherwork
iii. Cosmetics and Perfumes
iv. Textiles
E. Supply and Demand in a Competitive Market

Chapter 3: The Pottery Industry
A. The Evidence
i. Original Texts
ii. Pots
iii. Potteries and Kilns
iv. Stamps and Graffiti
v. Vase Paintings
B. Industry and Workshop Size
C. Labour Force
i. The Process of Making Pots
ii. Staffing Needs
iii. Justifying a Full-Time Team
D. Bases for Differentiation
E. Subsequent Changes in Competitive Dynamics and Industry Structure
F. Summary

Chapter 4: Mining, Metals and Armour
A. Mining
B. Ore Processing
C. General Metalworking
D. Jewellery and Ornaments
E. Coinage
F. Bronze Armour
G. Shield Manufacture
H. Knives
I. Summary

Chapter 5: Textiles, Clothing and Footwear
A. Textiles and Clothing
i. Spinning and Weaving
ii. Scouring and Finishing
B. Footwear
i. Tanning
ii. Shoemaking
C. Summary
Chapter 6: Woodworking
A. Furniture
B. General and Specialised Woodworking Segments
C. Boat Building
i. The Trireme: Development and Configuration
ii. Responsibility for Building Triremes
iii. Manufacturing: the Hull
iv. Manufacturing: Components
v. Shipbuilding and Supplying Industries
D. Summary

Chapter 7: Construction Industries
A. Public Buildings
B. Monumental Statues
C. Private Housing and Infrastructure
D. Summary

Chapter 8: Food, Drink and Personal Care
A. Agricultural Products
i. The Athenian Diet
ii. Processing
iii. Food Service
B. Cosmetics, Perfumes and Medicines
C. Summary

Chapter 9: Athens' Manufacturers
A. Citizen Investors
B. Citizen Craftsmen
C. Women
D. Foreign Residents
E. Slaves
Athenian Currency

Appendix: Quantifying Manufacturing Preparation
A. Supply Analysis
B. Demand Analysis
Secondary Sources
Photo Credits

About the author: 

Peter Acton has a degree in Classics from Oxford University, an MBA from Stanford Business School, and a Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Melbourne. He was a Vice President of The Boston Consulting Group from 1986 to 1999.

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