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Alexander the Great the pioneering economist

Alexander the Great the pioneering economist

29 Feb, 2024

While detailed analyzes of Alexander the Great's economic tactics are less well documented compared to his military pursuits, several fundamental principles highlight his attitude toward financially supporting the expansion of his territory and securing its long-term perspective. The economic policies and tactics employed were often aimed at raising revenue through taxation, enhancing trade, and exploiting natural resources, as well as promoting a stable economic base that would support long-term strategic pursuits.

From a very early age, Alexander the Great realized that wealth could arise not only through agriculture and mining but also through mass production. Instead of taking the gold from his conquests back to Greece and storing it underground, he chose to use it to finance the construction of some 70 cities, as well as to produce weapons and other necessary supplies by giving people work. With gold and silver, he minted coins, acting as a forerunner of modern economic practices, encouraging growth and providing a substantial boost to their prosperity. It took 2.00 years later for this practice to be recorded by o Adam Smith, in his work "Πlute of Εof the dead" in 1776, who taught that the cause of increasing national wealth is labor and no the amount of gold and silver.

Alexander the Great, with far-sighted foresight, recognized the need for a unified and stable economy within the vast empire he formed. In order to enhance economic homogeneity and commercial smoothness, he introduced the silver drachma as the common currency, thereby enhancing the economic integration of the various conquered territories. The harmonization of currency under his rule not only facilitated trade and financial management throughout the empire but also helped promote economic stability.

The introduction of a single currency was an innovative approach to creating a central economic framework, simplifying transaction processes, reducing trade complexity due to the use of different local currencies and enhancing financial transparency. The silver drachma, as a standard currency, was instrumental in the efficient communication and management of the empire's large economy, ensuring a stable and reliable medium of exchange.

This initiative boosted international trade as the currency became known and appreciated in all known markets. Beyond its practical importance, Alexander's introduction of a common currency also served as a powerful tool of political integration, expressing the unity and shared identity of the empire. The silver drachma, with its standardized value and quality, became a symbol of Alexander's rule, helping to establish a cultural and economic cohesion that influenced the Hellenistic period far beyond his time.

Through the founding of new cities, such as Alexandria in Egypt, and the reopening of the Persian Royal Road, Alexander the Great was able to drastically strengthen trade networks within his empire. These initiatives turned these cities into important economic and cultural hubs, boosting trade and cultural exchange, resulting in benefits for the empire's economic dynamism. In addition, Alexander's military successes provided security for trade routes, guaranteeing the safe transport of goods throughout the empire and thus encouraging economic growth.

The expansion of trade was also made possible by the creation of new trade routes, such as the first Silk Road, developed by Patrocles. The development of this road between West and East via the Caspian Sea and the Oxus River, opening roads to the heart of Asia, marked the beginning of international commercial exchange, passing control of trade from a few hands to a more extensive and diversified group of merchants .

Alexander used economic diplomacy as a key tool to achieve his goals, granting trade privileges, reducing taxes, and offering land grants to cities or regions that could potentially serve as strategic allies.

The strategic use of resources was also central to Alexander's campaigns, where his ability to keep supply lines running over long distances ensured the success and sustainment of his empire's expansion, demonstrating an unprecedented foresight in harnessing the resources available to the achievement of its military and economic objectives.

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his vast empire was divided among his generals, leading to the creation of many Hellenistic kingdoms. These included the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the Near East, etc. Each of these kingdoms developed their own systems of administration, culture and economic organization. However, all retained a single Hellenistic cultural identity and many common economic practices, including monetary policy.

The influence of Alexander the Great's coinage, especially with his portrait depicted on the coins, maintained its power for centuries after his death. Until the 5thο century AD, long after the end of the Hellenistic era and into the period of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, images and symbolism of Alexander the Great continued to be revered and used in various regions of the former Hellenistic empire, demonstrating the timeless value of his inheritance.

In the Hellenistic Indian kingdoms, the use of Alexander's portrait coins continued as late as 440 AD, suggesting a continuing connection to his legacy. This is an indication of the extensive influence of Alexander the Great, which transcended geographical and temporal boundaries. Today in the Xi'an museum in modern China, gold coins with the head of Alexander the Great issued in 440 AD are on display. (about 700 years after his death).

The fact that the images of Alexander in coins  continued 700 years after his death,  underlines the σembolic force, Msartistic tradition, on pholistic continuum, the oeconomic stability, and the profound and lasting impact of Alexander the Great on the civilizations that followed him, bridging the worlds of ancient Greece, the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Byzantine Empire.

Giorgos Atsalakis, Economist, Associate Professor

Technical University of Crete Laboratory of Data Analysis and Forecasting





 photo alexalf2 / https://pixabay.com 

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