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SITOS (σῖτος), corn. The soil of Attica, though favourable to the production of figs, olives, and grapes, was not so well suited for corn; and the population being very considerable in the flourishing period of the Athenian republic, it was necessary to import corn for their subsistence. According to the calculation of Boeckh, which does not materially differ from that of other writers, there were 135,000 freemen and 365,000 slaves residing in Attica. The country, which contained an area of 64,000 stadia, produced annually about 2,400,000 medimni of corn, chiefly barley. The medimnus was about 1 bushel, 3 gallons, and 5.75 pints, or 48 Attic χοίνικες. A χοῖνιξ was considered a fair daily allowance of meal (ἡμερησία τροφὴ) for a slave. The consumption of the whole population was about 3,400,000 medimni, requiring therefore an importation of at least a million. It came from the countries bordering on the Euxine Sea (Pontus, as it was called by the Greeks), and more especially from the Cimmerian [p. 2.677]Bosporus and the Thracian Chersonese; also from Syria, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus, Rhodes, Sicily, and Euboea. The necessities of the Athenians made them exceedingly anxious to secure a plentiful supply, and every precaution was taken for that purpose by the government as well as by the legislator. Sunium was fortified, in order that the corn vessels (σιταγωγοὶ ὁλκάδες) might come safely round the promontory. Ships of war were often employed to convoy the cargo (παραπέμπειν τὸν σῖτον) beyond the reach of an enemy (Dem. de Cor. p. 251.77; c. Polycl. p. 1211.17). When Pollis, the Lacedaemonian admiral, was stationed with his fleet off Aegina, the Athenians ermbarked in haste, under the command of Chabrias, and offered him battle, in order that the cornships, which had arrived as far as Geraestus in Euboea, might get into the Peiraeus (Xen. ]Hell. 5.4, § 61). One of the principal objects of Philip in his attack on Byzantium was that, by taking that city, he might command the entrance to the Euxine, and so have it in his power to distress the Athenians in the corn trade. Hence the great exertions made by Demosthenes to relieve the Byzantines, of the success of which he justly boasts (de Cor. pp. 254, 307, 326, § § 87, 241, 302).

As with those commercial states which, in modern times, import a large proportion of their food, a regularly-organised corn trade was a matter of the first necessity to the Athenians. What we learn of this organisation shows the business capacity of the Greeks, which in general was greatly inferior to that of modern Europe or even of the Romans, in a favourable light. The destination of corn-ships was frequently changed by advices after they had sailed (Dem. c. Dionysod. p. 1285.8 ff.); which could not have been done without a good system of intelligence. This enabled the vendors to sell in the best market, with the natural effect, not merely of raising prices where corn was cheap, but of lowering them where it was dear. Prices were thus brought to an equilibrium: for this, the true sense of συντιμᾶν in the passage just cited, see Class. Rev. 1.14. This natural flow of the commodity was checked by the short-sighted selfishness of governments; the Athenian in this respect being in all probability not the worst offender. Athenian legislation aimed at an artificial cheapness at the expense of speculators; exportation was entirely forbidden; and the consignment of corn to any other port than Athens (σιτηγεῖν ἄλλοσε Ἀθήναζε) was made a capital offence (Dem. c. Phorm. p. 918.37; Lycurg. c. Leocr. § 27). This was the rule for Attic traders, whether citizens or metoecs; while of the corn brought into Peiraeus in foreign bottoms two-thirds were to be carried up into the city and sold there (Harpocr. s. v. Ἐπιμελητ̀ς ἐμπορίου). No one might lend money to a ship that did not sail with an express condition to bring a return cargo, part of it corn, to Athens. If any merchant, capitalist, or other person advanced money or entered into any agreement in contravention of these laws, not only was he liable to the penalty, but the agreement itself was null and void, nor could he recover any sum of money, or bring any action in respect thereof (Dem. c. Lacrit. p. 941, § § 50, 51). Information against the offenders was to be laid before the ἐπιμεληταὶ τοῦ ἐμπορίου [EPIMELETAE No. 3]. Strict regulations were made with respect to the sale of corn in the market; and the proceedings of the σιτοπῶλαι or middlemen were narrowly watched both by the citizens and the importers (ἔμποροι, Lys. Or. 22.21). Conspiracies to buy up the corn (συνωνεῖσθαι), or raise the price (συνιστάναι τὰς τιμάς), were punished with death. The statement that they were not allowed to make a profit of more than one obol in the medimnus (ib. § 8) is illogical, and contradicted by the whole tenor of the passage: the true reading is δεῖν γὰρ αὐτοὺς κἂν ὀβολῷ μόνον πωλεῖν τιμιώτερον (Fränkel, n. 144 on Boeckh). It was, however, unlawful to buy more than fifty (φορμοὶ at a time: the size of this measure is uncertain, but Boeckh supposes it to be nearly the same as a medimnus. These provisions were (or were supposed to be) carried out by the σιτοφύλακες [SITOPHYLACES]. Offences against the corn laws are mentioned by Demosthenes (c. Timocr. p. 743.136) among those for which no bail was allowed before trial; whether he refers to the σιτοπῶλαι or σιτοφύλακες, or to both, is not clear. These laws were systematically evaded in the pursuit of gain (Lys. Or. 22, κατὰ τῶν Στοπωλῶν, passim; Dem. c. Dionysod l.c.).

In this interference with the natural course of trade, the political economy of the Athenians was scarcely more backward than that of modern Europe, including England, until quite recent times. Our own laws against “forestalling and regrating” were not extinguished until the end of the last century (M‘Culloch, n. on Smith's Wealth of Nations, p. 237, ed. 1863); in Italy, it appears, bakers and flourdealers are still liable to summary punishment both from mobs and municipalities. But the wholesale enactment of the death penalty brings out one of the worst features of the Athenian character, and is partly to be accounted for by the fact that the trade was mostly in the hands of aliens, who might be oppressed without remorse. Boeckh, who draws largely from the speech of Lysias against the Corn-dealers, seems scarcely aware of the impolicy as well as cruelty of the legislation it describes: an English scholar has criticised it in the true spirit of political economy (Mahaffy, Social Life in Greece, ed. 3, p. 403 f.).

We are not surprised to learn that scarcities (σιτοδεῖαι) frequently occurred at Athens, either from bad harvests, the misfortunes of war, or other accidental causes. The state then made great efforts to supply the wants of the people by importing large quantities of corn, and selling it at a low price. Public granaries were kept in the Odeum, Pompeum, Long Porch (μακρὰ στοά), and dockyard at the Peiraeus (Pollux, 9.45; Dem. c. Phorm. p. 918.37, where see Paley and Sandys). Sitonae (σιτῶναι) were appointed to get in the supply and manage the sale. Demosthenes was appointed on one occasion to that office (de Cor. p. 310.248). Persons called apodectae (ἀποδέκται) received the corn, measured it out, and distributed it in certain quantities (Pollux, 8.114). Public-spirited individuals would sometimes import grain at their own expense, and sell it at a moderate price, or distribute it [p. 2.678]gratuitously (Dem. c. Phorm. p. 918, § § 38, 39). We read of the Athenian state receiving presents of corn from kings and princes. Thus Leucon, king of the Bosporus, sent a large present, for which he had the honour of ἀτέλεια (exemption from customs-duties) conferred on him by a decree of the people (Dem. c. Lept. p. 467, § § 33, 34; cf. Isocr. Trapez. § 57). Psammetichus, an Egyptian prince, sent a present in Olymp. 83. 4, Demetrius in Olymp. 118. 2; Spartacus, king of the Bosporus, a few years after. In later times, that made by the Roman Atticus is well known. On the whole of this subject the reader is referred to Boeckh (P. E. p. 77 ff. = Sthh.a 1.97 ff.), where also he will find the various prices of meal and bread at Athens, and other details, copiously explained. As to the duty payable on the importation of corn, see PENTECOSTE

Σῖτος is strictly wheat-flour, ἄλφιτα barley-flour, πυροὶ wheat, κριθαὶ barley, ἄρτος wheat bread, μᾶζα barley-bread. Σῖτος, however, is often applied to all kinds of corn, and even in a larger sense to provisions in general.

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