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The Seleukid royal economy: The finances and financial administration of the Seleukid Empire

Aperghis, GG; (2000) The Seleukid royal economy: The finances and financial administration of the Seleukid Empire. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The sources are first discussed, with emphasis on Near Eastern written material, archaeological data and numismatics. After a brief historical summary, the essential problem of the early Seleukid kings is presented: how to convert a commodity-based economy into a monetary one. The underlying economy of the empire is next described. An assessment by region points to a peak population of some 20 million, occupied mainly in agriculture and local trade, which the new city foundations and royal land-grants stimulated. Ps-Aristotle's Oikonomika forms the basis of the main section. It is argued that the work belongs to the early 3rd century B.C. and describes the conditions of the Seleukid empire. Every form of satrapal revenue listed is analysed and rates of tribute, taxation and rent derived, where possible, and shown to be generally high. Coinage is found to have been increasingly used for payments by the administration, mostly for a large standing army. Similarly, taxation receipts were also required in coin and surplus commodity production on royal land was disposed of for silver, where possible. The tetradrachm served as the primary medium and fiduciary bronze tended to be used in place of small silver, but the Seleukids sought only to maintain appropriate currency levels in each region and their many mints essentially coined to replace what was lost through wear, apart from bursts of production for military needs. Foreign currencies circulated freely, including sometimes those on different standards. A quantitative model links population, production, royal revenue and expenses and coinage. Annual revenue may have reached 20,000 talents, but expenses were high and any surplus small. Finally, the financial administration of the empire owed much to Achaemenid prototypes. A picture emerges of regional and district officials, responsible both for satrapal finances and royal land and reporting directly to the king.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Seleukid royal economy: The finances and financial administration of the Seleukid Empire
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115558
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