For generations historians have talked about “the ancient economy”. When they want to be more specific, they have written of “the ancient Mediterranean economy.” Given the diversity of the ancient Mediterranean world, that’s not much more specific. Indeed, sometimes the search for unity has obscured the beauty of specificity, and even how economies and cultures changed over time.
In his book The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome, J.G. Manning seeks to understand the economies of the ancient Mediterranean prior to the rise of Rome. But he’s also meditating on theories of the origin of economies, and their interconnection both to one another and to the human and natural world around them.. It’s not a large book, physically, but there is a great deal between its covers.
Joseph G. Manning has 2009 been the William Kelly and Marilyn Milton Simpson Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. He is also a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School and, believe it or not, Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Author of numerous monographs and articles, he’s most recently published The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome, which is the subject of our conversation today.