1.3 — Ancient Writers (Mostly Greek) — Class Content

Meeting Dates

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


We begin our first look at some of the earliest writings about economics. None of these writers was self-consciously “an economist” or saw themselves as writing “about econonomics,”1 but it is pretty clear they occasionally touch on economic subjects.

While I have not assigned any Plato to you2, you should familiarize yourself briefly with Plato’s more famous claims and view of “the ideal State.”

A note of caution in reading Plato: Plato was the student of the famous Socrates (who did not write anything down), and he writes in dialogues, often between his Socrates character and other famous Greek contemporaries.

Aristotle - who was Plato’s greatest student - writes often in opposition to Plato’s views. Thus, it is useful to know what Aristotle is referring to.


Required Readings

  • Part I (Pre-classical Thought) Introduction, Aristotle, Politics & Nicomachean Ethics in Medema & Samuels (Reader)
  • Ch.2 (Early Preclassical Economic Thought) in Landreth & Colander

Blaug unfortunately does not cover anything before mercantilism & the physiocrats.

Questions to Help Your Reading

  • How much of these writings are meant to be normative vs. positive?
  • What economic concepts or principles can you find in these writings?
  • What can we glean of Aristotle’s method or methodology? How does he approach the subjects he writes about and get us to learn something from them?
  • What is the State, according to Aristotle? What are its origins and purpose? What is the relationship between the State and an individual?
  • What does Aristotle have to say about property? What about property held “in common” versus “private” property?
  • What the role of “equality” or “reciprocality” in exchange?
  • What is the purpose, origin, and nature of money?
  • What aspects of “the art of wealth-getting” are “natural” and what are “unnatural?”


Below, you can find the slides in two formats. Clicking the image will bring you to the html version of the slides in a new tab. The lower button will allow you to download a PDF version of the slides.


You can type h to see a special list of viewing options, and type o for an outline view of all the slides.

I suggest printing the slides beforehand and using them to take additional notes in class (not everything is in the slides)!


Download as PDF


Participation/Discussion Board Posts Due 8 PM Fri Sep 2

This week’s graded discussion is worth 5 points, and can be a combination of discussion in class, and/or posts on the Blackboard Discussion Board by 8 PM this Friday September 2.


  1. We won’t see anything like this until the 19th century.↩︎

  2. Mainly because it is not in our Reader!↩︎