Power and production in Ptolemaic Egypt: an assessment of economic policy in the third century BCE

2017-03-02T23:05:50Z (GMT) by Garland, David Thomas Lindsay
This thesis considers the nature of Ptolemaic economic policy: its consistency, basic principles, and the functions and interrelations between the central and local state. Early scholarship viewed the Ptolemaic economy as controlled and planned by the central state, while it has been recognized in the past fifty years that economic direction occurred on the local level. These diverging views call for a consideration of the relationship between the central state and its local units, and for a reconceptualization of economic policy overall. To consider the principles and aims of policy, economic theory is employed to analyze its economic effects. Particular focus is given to the regulations on importation. The possible role of the state in importing goods is explored, in addition to the prohibitions and tolls on trade emphasized in previous work. The mercantilist and protectionist aims attributed to this trade policy by earlier scholars are re-assessed by considering its effects and comparing it with internal economic policy. A suggestion is made that rights for importation and the collection of customs duties were auctioned in the same fashion that production, retailing, and taxation were in other sectors of the economy. It is argued that the central state had a supervisory and coordinating role in the operation of economic policy, rather than directly planning the economy. State control of resources was a major aim of economic policy, but the central state devolved the management of these resources to nome officials and tax-farmers. This is based not only on previous work demonstrating the local administration’s significance, but also by analysing the role of tax-farmers. It appears that the central state aimed to establish a largely self-enforcing system on the local level, allowing for revenue to flow to the king without requiring excessive involvement from high officials. In addition to this, by considering economic theory it is shown that the state’s household management of resources would have resulted in far less efficient outcomes under central rather than local direction.