Alexander the Great with the foundation of his universal empire opened a new era, also in the economic history of Greece and the Hellenic East. His colonies (more than 70 are attributed to him), in addition to military purposes, served those of traffic and civilization. Just think of the importance that Alexandria in Egypt and Alexandria in the Persian Gulf assumed in a short time, the former as a world city, the latter as a commercial center for the entire region into which the Euphrates and Tigris flowed. It should be added that the great Macedonian made an effort, by ordering its exploration, to open the Indian Ocean to trade, and had planned to do the same for the Caspian Sea. The introduction desired by him throughout the empire of a unitary monetary system was also very useful. Furthermore, the conquest of the satrapies of Asia Minor, and then of Egypt and of the interior of the Persian empire with the royal treasures of Susa and Persepolis, placed immense wealth in his hands, however quickly swallowed up by military expenses for the maintenance of the troops., for the rewards to the mercenaries, for the gifts to the officers, and from the luxury of the court. Although the annual income certainly exceeded 15,000 talents, at the death of the king there were 50,000 talents in the treasury.
The conquest of the East and the foundation of many new cities opened an endless field for the products of Greek industry and caused an economic impetus, which could not even be stifled by the bloody struggles of the Diadochi. Athens was very flourishing during the government of Demetrio Falereo, but then for the whole century. III the most splendid city of the Greek peninsula became Corinth. Maximus was naturally the flourishing of Macedonia, which had its new commercial center in Thessalonica founded by Cassander; Ephesus and Miletus flourished magnificently in Asia Minor; new important centers became Alexandria Troas, Ilio and especially Pergamum, while Halicarnassus, Lesbos, Chios, Samos decayed.
Although the conquests of Macedonian had also brought economic advantages to one or the other city of the Greek peninsula, on the whole the conquest and colonization of the East as far as India took away the dominant position that it had had as a geographical and commercial center of the Greek world, and shifted the economic center of gravity towards the East. The Mediterranean ceased to be the only major road of Greek trade: the colonies founded no longer on the coasts, but in the interior of Asia, the communication roads opened by the Seleucids between Antioch and Seleucia, Antioch and the Iranian plateau, the great waterway of the Nile, the opening of the coasts of the Indian Ocean, due to the efforts of the Ptolemies, offered new means to trade, expanding its breath in a much wider circle than before. And of this tour the centers arose, where the great commercial arteries that led from the East to the Mediterranean opened, and therefore, first of all, in Alexandria in Egypt (which rose to an extension of 900 hectares and a population of about half a million), the only major port in North Africa, connected with a channel to the Nile and in very easy communication with the Red Sea; in Antioch on the Orontes, whose position particularly facilitated the reconnection of the Mediterranean coasts with the interior of Syria; in Seleucia del Tigris, where the trade routes of the Iranian plateau and the Persian Gulf joined. And the trade that flowed from these points became a further transit center Rhodes, source in an equally suitable position for trade with Egypt, with Syria, with the cities of Pontus and with Sicily. And it was trade that had assumed much larger proportions than in the past, also due to the progress made by navigation and the greater safety of the seas: the mass of goods of the annual commercial movement in Rhodes at the beginning of the century. II a. C. seems to be estimated at four times that in Athens around 400 BC. C., and that is about 125 million gold lire. it seems that it can be estimated at four times that in Athens around 400 BC. C., and that is about 125 million gold lire. it seems that it can be estimated at four times that in Athens around 400 BC. C., and that is about 125 million gold lire.
The momentum of trade corresponds to that of agricultural and industrial production, first in Egypt, a great producer of wheat and fervent in industries (especially flax, papyrus, glass), and secondly in Babylon and Asia Minor.
And here in the East large industry works not on a predominant basis of slaves, as still in the Greek peninsula and in Sicily, but with a very large use of free labor, while for agriculture in Asia Minor we see serfs employed, personally free, that is, in the condition of the Spartan Helots and the Roman colonate. The monetary economy prevails throughout the East, the banks have further increased especially in Egypt, but they even arise in small towns, such as Tespie and Tauromenio, and the means of circulation greatly increase, both in noble metals and in bronze.. Prices did not generally undergo increases, and the same goes for salaries and wages, as is demonstrated by the abundant data collected in the history of Beloch. The interest on the borrowed capital fell, for the greater certainty of the general conditions, from 12%, which was fixed in Athens towards the middle of the previous century, to 10%, but in Egypt it was much higher: 24%. Much greater wealth than before was accumulated in the hands of individuals: at the same time the middle classes in Greece decreased, the masses proletarianized, and the small rural property was absorbed by the large estates. But even the large owners almost everywhere got into debt, causing agitation from time to time for the cancellation of mortgages, which agitations were successful in Sparta with the favor of the government, but not in other places, where indeed there was even a civil war between creditors and debtors. However, conditions in the East were much better, even in this respect, where, alongside the great properties of the crown,
Among the states that arose on the ruins of the empire of Alexander the Great, the largest by extension and population was the Seleucid one, to which, naturally with calculations of uncertain approximation, three and a half million square kilometers of surface can be attributed, of which 600,000 per at least they belonged to the western provinces, and a population of 30 million; followed by Egypt with about 120,000 sq km. of extension and 10 million residents, and Macedonia with 70-90,000 sq km. and 3-4 million residents.