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International Commerce

Success in competing for international markets affected the fortunes of Greek city-states during this period. The city-state of Corinth1, for example, grew prosperous from ship building and its geographical location controlling the narrow isthmus of land connecting northern and southern Greece. Since ships plying the east-west sea lanes of the Mediterranean preferred to avoid the stormy passage around the tip of southern Greece, they commonly off-loaded their cargoes for transshipment on a special roadbed built across the isthmus and subsequent reloading on different ships on the other side. Small ships may even have been dragged over the roadbed from one side of the isthmus to the other. Corinth became a bustling center for shipping and earned a large income from sales and harbor taxes. Taking advantage of its deposits of fine clay and the expertise of a growing number of potters2, Corinth also developed a thriving export trade in fine decorated pottery, which non-Greek peoples such as Etruscans in central Italy seem to have prized as luxury goods3. By the late sixth century B.C., however, Athens began to displace Corinth as the leading Greek exporter of fancy painted pottery, especially after consumers came to prefer designs featuring the red color for which its clay was better suited than Corinth's.

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