The failure of ancient Greek growth: institutions, culture and energy cost

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Along with introducing democracy, advancing philosophy and excelling at the arts, during the period 800–300 BCE ancient Greece achieved substantial economic prosperity. Recent literature attributes the efflorescence to the institutions and culture of democratic city-states. However, the city-states failed to initiate sustained growth. Technological progress remained slow and the economic efflorescence ended after the prevalence of Macedon and the subsequent Roman conquest. The present study scrutinises the roles of city-state institutions and culture. It shows that ultimately ancient Greece could not sustain long-run growth because a multitude of independent small city-states prevented the exploitation of economies of scale and stoked continual wars that exhausted them financially and militarily, and because of a culture valuing landholding, self-sufficiency and collectivist attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-350
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2019


  • Ancient Greece
  • city–state
  • Institutions
  • culture
  • war
  • relative cost of energy
  • growth


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