The liberating power of entrepreneurship in ancient Athens
Our objectives in this paper are threefold. First, we identify the nature of entrepreneurial climate in ancient Athens. Drawing on the analyses of Athenian writers we argue that, although philosophers, politicians, and generals enjoyed greater civil and social status relative to those pursuing wealth-creating activities, ancient Athenians were not negative to efforts at making “moderate” profits that were used also for promoting the well being of the city. Second, we inquire if and to what extent the city-state of Athens (mainly during the 5th century BC) had an active policy for encouraging metics (i.e. resident aliens) and slaves to assimilate into the Athenian society through success in business. And, finally, we characterise the degree to which metics and slaves were able to take advantage of the prevailing institutional set- up in order to achieve social advancement and individual liberty. Our main conclusion is that in ancient Athens there operated a system of economic and social incentives that had been deliberately designed to promote entrepreneurial activities.
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