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Grain Supply

Reading: Lysias Against the Corn-Dealers


Some gobbets on Grain Supply in Greece (especially Athens)

Herodotus Histories 7.147, 2-3: [2] This was like that other saying of Xerxes when he was at Abydos and saw ships laden with corn sailing out of the Pontus through the Hellespont on their way to Aegina and the Peloponnese. His counsellors, perceiving that they were enemy ships, were for taking them, and looked to the king for orders to do so. [3] Xerxes, however, asked them where the ships were sailing, and they answered: “To your enemies, Sire, carrying corn.” Xerxes then answered, “And are not we too sailing to the same places as they, with corn among all our other provisions? What wrong are they doing us in carrying food there?”

Demosthenes, Against Leptines = 20, 31-3: [31] For you are aware that we consume more imported corn than any other nation. Now the corn that comes to our ports from the Black Sea is equal to the whole amount from all other places of export. And this is not surprising; for not only is that district most productive of corn, but also Leucon*, who controls the trade, has granted exemption from dues to merchants conveying corn to Athens, and he proclaims that those bound for your port shall have priority of lading. For Leucon, enjoying exemption for himself and his children, has granted exemption to every one of you. [32] See what this amounts to. He exacts a toll of one-thirtieth from exporters of corn from his country. Now from theBosporus there come to Athens about four hundred thousand bushels; the figures can be checked by the books of the grain commissioners. So for each three hundred thousand bushels he makes us a present of ten thousand bushels, and for the remaining hundred thousand a present of roughly three thousand. [33] Now, so little danger is there of his depriving our state of this gift, that he has opened another depot at Theudosia, which our merchants say is not at all inferior to the Bosporus, and there, too, he has granted us the same exemption. I omit much that might be said about the other benefits conferred upon you by this prince and also by his ancestors, but the year before last, when there was a universal shortage of grain, he not only sent enough for your needs, but such a quantity in addition that Callisthenes had a surplus of fifteen talents of silver to dispose of.
*Leucon was ruler of the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus in Ukraine, between Black Sea and Sea of Azov, 389-49 BC.

Demosthenes 35 Against Lacritus 51: “[51]It shall be unlawful for any Athenian or any alien residing at Athens or for any person over whom they have control, to lend money on any vessel which is not going to bring to Athens grain or the other articles specifically mentioned.1 And if any man lends out money contrary to this decree, information and an account of the money shall be laid before the harbor-masters in the same manner as is provided in regard to the ship and the grain. And he shall have no right to bring action for the money which he has lent for a voyage to any other place than to Athens, and no magistrate shall bring any such suit to trial.”

From elsewhere
Meiggs and Lewis, Greek Historical Inscriptions 30: Anyone who should make destructive drugs (or “spells”) against the Teians as a community or against an individual, may that man and his family perish. Anyone who should by any craft or device prevent the bringing in of corn to Teian territory by sea or by land or should send it away once imported, may that man and his family perish.
Inscription from Teos 475-470 BCE [transl. Parker]

SIG3 354: ‘Resolved by the council and the people; Dion son of Diopithes moved: since Agathocles son of Hegemon of Rhodes, when he was importing grain to the city amounting to 14,000 hekteis and found that the grain in the agora was being sold at more than 6 drachmas, he was persuaded by the agoranomos and wished to do a favour to the people, and sold all his grain more cheaply than it was being sold in the agora, be it resolved by the people, to grant citizenship to Agathocles of Rhodes on a basis of full equality, to himself and his descendants...’ [trans. Austin]
Inscription of c. 300 BCE from Theatre of Ephesus

Further Reading

Alfonso Moreno Feeding the Democracy: The Athenian Grain Supply in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC (Oxford, 2007) especially Conclusion, see Oxford scholarship online: LINK