Food supply -- Greece -- History, To 1500 Grain trade -- Black Sea -- History Grain trade -- Greece -- History, To 1500 Τροφή, Εφοδιασμός με -- Ελλάδα -- Ιστορία, Μέχρι το 1500 Σιτηρά -- Εμπόριο -- Μαύρη Θάλασσα -- Ιστορία Σιτηρά -- Εμπόριο -- Ελλάδα -- Ιστορία, Μέχρι το 1500
The question of the grain supply to Athens is one that has long been atthe core of academic discussion. The Black Sea is nearly always consideredone of the principal suppliers of grain. Scholars place their trust morein Demosthenes than in actual events and hard evidence. When the matter islooked at from the perspective of the Black Sea, the situation is muchless clear. New material, including the publication of inscriptions andother evidence (for example, from Callatis, Histria, etc.; not to sayanything of the Athenian grain tax law of 374/3 BC), helps us toreconstruct the real situation.There is no firm evidence until the end of the 5th century BC that Athens imported grain from the Black Sea, especially from the Bosporan Kingdom. Pericles' expedition to the Black Sea, as well as the ATL for 425 BC, which contains the names of Black Sea cities, need to be used with extreme caution: they pose more questions than they answer. The relationship between Athens and the Bosporan Kingdom wasclosest in the reign of the Bosporan king Leucon I (389/8-349/8 BC), whenAthens enjoyed many commercial privileges in trading with the Bosporus.Evidence makes it clear that Bosporan grain was shipped to Athens onlywhen it was required there, for example, in the famine of ca. 360 BC.Leucon I was able to send large quantities of grain to Athens from time to time because the local peoples of the Taman Peninsula/the Kuban, with their grain-producing lands, were peacefully incorporated inthe Bosporan Kingdom during his reign.The general situation regarding grain around the Black Sea is not asfavourable as it is generally assumed to be. Polybius (4. 38. 4-6) makesit very clear that 'As for grain, there is give and take - with themsometimes supplying us when we require and sometimes importing it fromus.' Inscriptions from Histria show that city's permanent insecurity insupplying its own grain requirements. Olbia had problems too. At the sametime, the eastern Black Sea was unable to produce grain because of itsmarshy terrain. Many more examples can be given from other cities andareas around the Black Sea.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: The Ancient City in a European Perspective: feeding the ancient city