Homo Oeconomicus in Ancient Athens: Silver Bonanza and the Choice to Build a Navy

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    In 483/2 BC the ancient Athenians voted to spend the revenue from recently discovered silver deposits to build a navy instead of distributing it as cash transfers to all citizens. The navy was pivotal for victory against the invading Persians and secured the power and wealth of classical Athens. The paper discusses three interrelated issues. (1) The use of the voting mechanism to decide the disposal of the revenue from natural resources. (2) The binary nature of the choice, either transfers or defence but not a combination of the two. (3) An explanation of the vote based on the increase in probability of military victory following an increase in defence spending.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)435-458
    JournalHomo Oeconomicus
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013



    • Ancient Athens
    • direct democracy
    • defence
    • cash–benefits
    • economics of conflict
    • triremes

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