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Economic Motives for Colonization

Like other peoples of the eastern Mediterranean, Greeks also established their own trading posts abroad. Traders from Euboea, for instance, had already established commercial contacts by 800 B.C. with a community located on the Syrian coast at a site now called Al Mina. Men wealthy enough to finance risky expeditions by sea ranged far from home in search of metals. Homeric poetry testifies to the basic strategy of this entrepreneurial commodity trading. In the Odyssey , the goddess Athena once appears disguised as a metal trader to hide her identity from the son of the poem's hero: “I am here at present,” she says to him, “with my ship and crew on our way across the wine-dark sea to foreign lands in search of copper; I am carrying iron now.”1 By about 775 B.C., Euboeans, who seem to have been particularly active explorers, had also established a settlement for purposes of trade on the island of Ischia, in the bay of Naples off southern Italy. There they processed iron ore imported from the Etruscans, who lived in central Italy. Archaeologists have documented the expanding overseas communication of the eighth century by finding Greek pottery at more than eighty sites outside the Greek homeland; for the tenth century, by contrast, only two pots have been found that were carried abroad.

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