Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2008:9: Institutions, taxation, and market relationships in ancient Athens

Carl Hampus Lyttkens ()
Additional contact information
Carl Hampus Lyttkens: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: This paper explores the mutual influence between the institutional development in Athens in the archaic and classical periods and the contemporary changes in economic life. This enhances our understanding of the causes and consequences of institutional change. It is also worth exploring in view of the suggested connections between economic development, markets and democracy. Between 600 and 322 B.C., Athenian society underwent significant institutional change. Rule by a birth aristocracy gave way to (changing) democratic institutions. Political pay was introduced for magistrates, jurors, and assemblymen. Legislation and execution was transferred to the Assembly and to the courts. The nature and extent of taxation changed. In the same period, economic life changed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Trade and specialisation increased, coinage was introduced and self-sufficient farming gradually gave way to reliance on imports and on the market for necessary goods. These changes not only influenced institutional change, they also affected people’s perception of the world. The influence of institutions on the presence and nature of economic transactions is obvious. The influence on institutional change from changes in economic behaviours and outlook seems however potentially equally important.

Keywords: institutional change; democracy; market; Athens; antiquity

JEL-codes: D72; H30; N43; O17; P16

37 pages, February 28, 2008

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