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 more or less dependent for survival on manufacturing in some form, this subject has been almost completely neglected by historians.
Poiesis brings together ancient texts and inscriptions, recent scholarly analysis, archaeological finds, and the expertise of modern craftsmen to investigate every known facet of Athens’ manufacturing activities. Authored by a management consultant and a recent PhD in ancient history, the book presents the information in terms of contemporary business principles, drawing on supply and demand and risk-return analysis to explain events and choices. Manufacturing operations are classified in a novel framework based on competitive advantage and barriers to entry, concepts previously absent from ancient history. The framework explains why certain segments were suited to the sole craftsman and others to teams of slaves and deduces earnings potential based upon competitive differentiation. The result is a new angle on how Athenian society operated; in particular it shows how fragmented industry structures, often the result of primitive technology, were fundamental to the workings of the Athenian democracy by enabling citizens to supplement their income through casual manufacturing activity. The book explains how manufacturing for sale emerged from autarchic peasant households, explores whether any of the industries examined changed to any great extent in Hellenistic and Roman times, and shows how some were transformed by the Industrial Revolution. It includes a methodology for quantifying the demographics of participation in manufacturing.
By presenting a new paradigm of historical analysis, one complementing political, military, and literary perspectives, the book will be valuable to classicists and ancient and economic historians while remaining accessible to the general reader.