Another important source of income to the city was indirect taxation. It was applied mostly in trade, and the tax rate was usually 2% (one fiftieth). In Athens in 400 B.C., after the Pelloponisian War, trade had stagnated. Yet, Athens taxed 9.000.000 drachmas. Plus the fees for using the port facilities. But that wasn’t always the case.
Delos in 230 B.C, on the same rate of 2% collected only 17.900 drachmas. Rhodes, before 166 B.C., according to Polibius’ work “Histories” collected nearly 1.000.000 drachmas from fees and taxation on the imported and exported goods.
An interesting example is the case of Delos. In 166 B.C, the Romans played a big part in Greek politics. Delos used to be under the patronage of the state of Macedonia, under which Delos managed to become a large and important port by taking advantage of its religious status. When Delos was conquered from the Macedonians and captured by the Romans, the Romans gave the island to Athens. Not only that, but most importantly made Delos a free port. No taxes or fees were to be collected in the port of Delos.
Although we do not have clear written evidence, archeology can give an image of what happened. The city got even richer. New buildings rose, and more space was made for the emporium…
Trade Commerce advanced a lot in ancient times. Among cities it became regular feature of daily life. At an earlier time in Greek history trade was occasional and sporadic. As the Greek states rose from regional into international powers, trade became faster and a larger part of the economy. Although traders were much less than the farmers, all farmers took on the role of occasional traders. Farmers would trade their goods themselves by land and sometimes by sea.
Of course trade was not an easy business. Many city states meant many borders to cross and many tariffs to pay. There were frequent wars and, at times, many pirates and thieves competing for booty on the seas. Inland the problem was tackled with the creation of a road network, which was perfected in the early roman period.
Trade by the sea was more extensive. It was easier and cheaper to carry large quantities of goods by sea than it was by land. Archaeology has shown that a ship in the classic era could carry 20 to 70 tons, but in the Hellenistic era the capacity rose to 120 or more tons. We can estimate that a ship at that time could travel maximum 40 km a day.
In ancient times they traveled mostly in the morning and rarely at night with the guidance of the stars. As mentioned in “The social and economic history of the hellenistic world” by M. Rostovtzef:
“Trading distances became bigger and bigger through the centuries, and relationships among cities grew more and more complex. Athens, bought its wheat from Egypt and the Black Sea. In the year 374 it is known ,based on the collected tax and the price paid that 23.200 tons of cereals were imported to cover the needs of Athens and Peraeus Alexandria in the Hellenistic times traded indirectly with India luxury goods. After all not all things could be trades with nearby cities.