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Greek Population

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  Quote Jorsalfar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Greek Population
    Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 14:47

Do historians have any idea about how big the popluation in the Hellenic peninsula was?

Around the time of Alexander the great?

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  Quote Belisarius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 16:37
Unfortunately, as with most instances of historical demographics, there are no exact numbers. However, I have read that in the half century or so before the Roman conquest, the Balkans had a population around the avenue of three million people. The time period might be a couple of centuries away from Alexander, but I do not believe the population would have been too much different. 
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  Quote Jorsalfar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 17:51

Thanks

 

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  Quote Perseas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 20:02

I could find out the population of some greek cities in Alexander's time but i am not sure about the entire greek population.

From memory,  i remember the population of Athens around 312 BC to be like this:

- Citizens 21,000 (over 20 years old)

- Metics 10,000

- Slaves 400,000

A mathematician is a person who thinks that if there are supposed to be three people in a room, but five come out, then two more must enter the room in order for it to be empty.
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  Quote dorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 20:38

Btw I have read somewhere that in the 5th century BC the population of Athens was about 300,000 and of Sparta 250,000.

In Athens:

total 300,000

citizens 50,000

metics 20,000

slaves 90,000

women and children 140,000

Of course we don't know how accurate these numbers are.

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  Quote conon394 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2005 at 23:29

Aeolus

 

The 400,000 for slaves in 312 is generally rejected as in all likelihood a text error.  The number supposedly comes from a census taken by Demetrious of Phaleron in 312 BC. One of the key problems is that like similar recorded census taken in Rhodes and Megalopolis, it was likely for military purposes, that is finding the number of males of military age (metric, slave and citizen). The number 400,000 therefore suggests an astronomical number of total slaves.  Here is quote from the Athenian Democracy in the age of Demosthenes by Mogens Herman Hansen about the 400,000 figure: What is more, it is impossible, and is quoted together with equally impossible figures for other cities, such as 470,000 slaves on the island of Aigina, which is only 85 sq. km in size and would have had to have a density of 5500 per sq km of slaves alone. See also AHM Jones absurd or A. W. Gromme, who also dismisses the figure.  The real key issue is that three factors would likely dictate the slave population: the general level of prosperity, the importance of Athens as a slave market, and the relative activity of the attic silver mines. It seems unlikely the slave population was much more than a tenth of the 400,000 figure in 312 given: that Xenophon estimated the sliver mines could only employ about 10,000 slaves at maximum; that in 312 BC that Athens was far poorer than in 323 or 338 (when Hyperides estimated that there were 150,000 slaves); and that with the final defeat in the Lamian war and Macedonian occupation, Rhodes was fast overtaking Athens as the key trade and banking port in the Aegean

 

Hansen figures in 323-323 the total adult male population at around 30,000 and a total population of around 100,000 Athenians (all ages and genders). Given the census of 312 suggest 10,000 adult male metrics; he puts total metrics at 40,000.  As for slaves he puts the number as fluctuating with prosperity probably 100,000 (or less) to 150,000.

 

Other historians working backward from the amount of grain imported and grown in 4th century Attica, have put the maximum population at around 250-300,000, which also tends to preclude the excessive slave figure. A. W. Gomme for example, puts total population at no more than 250,000 275,000 (or lower) in the mid 4th century.  With the same figures Jones comes up with about 125,000 for the total citizen population around 350 BC, 20,000 -30,000 slaves and does not estimate metrics.

 

 

 

 

 



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  Quote Perseas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jul-2005 at 07:06

Thanks for the clarification, Conon.

The figures given mainly for slaves were always at least questionable.

Here is an interesting read refering to ancient Greek demographics by Nathaniel Weyl.

The Greek population never compared in size with that of Persia or
Egypt, and one of the astounding achievements of Greece is that so
few should have done so much. Classical population estimates are, of
course, subject to immense margins of error. Outside of China, the
census was virtually unknown. The cumbersome number system of the
Greeks made arithmetical computations difficult in the extreme. The
fact that the Greek word *myrias*, meaning ten thousand, became
*myriad* and came to mean any number so large that it could not be
counted testified to Greek inability to estimate or manipulate large
magnitudes easily.

With these qualifications, a few estimates of the population of the
Creek cities can be offered. In 480 B.C., Corinth is believed to
have had a population of 50,000 freemen and 60,000 slaves; a century
later, the island of Aegina had 30,000 citizens and 470,000 slaves
(according to Aristotle); in 431 B.C., Chios claimed 30,000 freemen
and 100,000 slaves. Sybaris at the peak of its prosperity may have
had 300,000 inhabitants. For Syracuse in Sicily, the population
estimate is half a million.

Turning to Athens, the salt of Greece, there were 43,000 citizens in
the age of Pericles, 28,500 metics (or resident aliens) and 115,000
slaves. The total population, including women and children, was
about 315,000. Approximately a century and a half later, in 310
B.C., Demetrius of Phalerum took a census of the city and counted
21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 400,000 slaves. Total population
had more than doubled while the number of freemen had fallen by
half. [1]

In Attica, soil erosion had disintegrated the traditional
subsistence and diversified farming system as early as the beginning
of the 4th century B.C. In the Critias, Plato attributes this
process to "violent deluges which stripped off all the rich, soft
soil," leaving "a country of skin and bones." Plato noted that the
lofty, forested mountains had become so stripped of trees that many
were fit only for the cultivation of bees; he added that aridity had
set in, for the rainfall glided over the denuded surface, fell to
the sea and was lost to agriculture. [2]

The Athenian response to this challenge was an agricultural
revolution, based on specialization and production for export. The
denuded hills now supported olive trees; the oil pressed from the
olives was packed in jars and sent overseas in Attic ships and sold
to foreigners by Attic merchants. "Bad harvests due to atmospheric
conditions fall with crushing weight upon even the strongest land-
powers," wrote an anonymous Athenian economist of the early fifth
century B.C., "while sea-powers surmount them easily. Bad harvests
are never of world-wide incidence, and therefore the masters of the
sea are always able to draw upon regions in which the harvest has
been abundant." [3] The anonymous Athenian saw that the wealth of
Athens sprang from navigation and trade; her culture, her broad,
cosmopolitan view and her exacting standards of aesthetic excellence
were stimulated by the fact that her society was maritime and her
wealth drawn from the ocean.

The demographic decline of Athens thus was not caused by soil
erosion. The impoverishment of the land was, on the contrary, a
stimulus, for it prevented Attica from sinking into the bovine,
brutish stupidity of a peasant society and forced her to turn to
navigation, seaborne trade, agricultural specialisation and the
development of great handicraft industries for export.

The decline was caused, to a large extent, by the internecine
military struggles between the city-states and by the fact that the
citizens fought the wars of their cities instead of pursuing the
perhaps wiser Roman policy of hiring barbarians for this purpose. It
is generally assumed that the Roman policy was folly because some of
the barbarians turned on their masters during the upheavals of the
Voelkerwanderungen. Yet it is worth recalling that the Roman Empire
in the West persisted for about five centuries and that in the East
for 15. The political achievement of Rome, considered in terms of
the organization of state power, rather than any actualization of
individual freedom, is more impressive than that of Greece.

Depopulation in Greece seems to have been caused by institutional
factors and by political and psychic decadence. Polybius describes
the process cogently as it operated during the 2nd century B.C. In
Boeotia, he observed, "the administration of justice in the country
had remained in abeyance over a period of nearly twenty-five years";
civil and criminal law were systematically thwarted by the
proclamation of states of siege and by arbitrary executive action; a
welfare state was created by politicians who won votes by giving
relief to the poor and releasing convicted debtors and
criminals. "The effect of these measures was reinforced by another
obsession of an unfortunate kind," Polybius added. "Persons dying
childless began to abandon the habit which had formerly prevailed in
Boeotia of bequeathing their property to their relatives in the next
generation, and to spend it instead upon entertainment and drinking,
in which they shared it with their friends. Even persons leaving
families began, in many cases, to earmark the greater part of their
property for legacies to the clubs, until there were many
individuals in Boeotia entitled to more free dinners a month than
there were days on which to eat them."

The same, or a similar, situation existed elsewhere in Greece. "In
our own times," Polybius wrote, "the whole of Hellas has been
afflicted with a low birth rate or, in other words, with
depopulation, through which the states have been emptied of
inhabitants with an accompanying fall of productivity -- and this in
spite of the fact that we have not suffered from any continuous wars
or epidemics.

"The fact is that the people of Hellas had entered upon the false
path of ostentation, avarice, and laziness," the historian
continued, "and were therefore becoming unwilling to marry or, if
they did marry, to bring up the children born to them; the majority
were only willing to bring up at most one or two, [4] in order to
leave them wealthy and to spoil them in their childhood; and in
consequence of all this the evil had been spreading rapidly before
it was observed. Where there are families of one or two children, of
whom war claims one and disease the other for its victim, it is an
evident and inevitable consequence that households should be left
desolate and that states, precisely like beehives, should gradually
lose their reserves and sink into impotence. On this subject there
is no need whatsoever to inquire of the gods as to how we are to be
saved from the cancer. The plain man will answer that, first and
foremost, we must save ourselves, either by changing our obsession
or alternately by making it illegal not to bring up every child that
is born." [5]

[1] The figures for Athenian population in the Periclean age are
from A. W. Gomme, The Population of Athens in the Fifth and Fourth
Centuries B. C. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1933), pp. 21,
26, 47; the other estimates were culled from a variety of sources by
Will Durant, The Life of Greece ( New York: Simon and Schuster,
1939), PP. 91-95,150, 160-1, 173, 254-5, 561.

[2] Arnold J. Toynbee (trans.), in A Study of History, op. cit., I,
39.

[3] Toynbee, ibid., I, 41.

[4] This and the concluding sentence are references to infanticide,
a practice which was legal in Greece.

[5] Polybius, Book XX, Chapter 6, 1-6 and Book VI, Chapter 7.
Arnold J. Toynbee (trans.) in Creek Civilization and Character, op.
cit., pp. 72-3.

A mathematician is a person who thinks that if there are supposed to be three people in a room, but five come out, then two more must enter the room in order for it to be empty.
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