Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Economy of Oenoanda

It is probably useful to put Oenoanda in context first. It was a hilltop city that was very outside the Roman model, moreover it also was not on any major routes so thus "not on the way to anywhere else". Therefore the city had to rely on its own very small hinterland for its economic prosperity. In this respect its closest parallel in modern times is the Italian hill towns of Tuscany.

Some versions have it that the town takes it name form the Greek word for wine. Certainly the area has not been known for its wine or grape growing for a very long time. However, in a recent report the Hurriyet newspaper reported a reactivation of wine growing at Arycanda, citing evidence of "wine houses" in the region of Oenoanda and claiming that wine in the world had been first grown in the region 4,000 years ago. 

Just east of the Esplanade in the upper part of the city, archaeologists have identified what they have termed a screw-press (constructed from spolia) for wine production that dates from a late stage of the city's history, the size of which has been deemed worthy of being shown on maps of the area. 

We can therefore presume that wine and probably olive growing were also profitable economic activities in the area. Though what the surplus for export might have been is unfathomable.  

We might regard the city's "territory" as being the valleys on either side of its mountain eyrie. An inscription relating to the establishment of the Demosthenaia festival notes that there were 35 villages within the territory of Oenoanda. The evidence also suggests that there was summer pasture under the city's control that was a source for sacrificial animals and presumably herds as a food source. 

The map below shows the town and the valleys around. Kemerarasi was known as Termessos Minor in ancient times.  

What was grown in these valleys in ancient times remains a mystery but a clue may be the ransom that the Romans demanded of the Cabalian League which consisted of 10,000 medimni of wheat. According to A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. William Smith, LLD. William Wayte. G. E. Marindin. Albemarle Street, London. John Murray. 1890. an Attic medimnus consisted of 12 imperial gallons (11.556 gallons) or 1 1/2 bushel, though there were different versions that were less. However, for the region to have such a large surplus (hopefully) of wheat to make the payment, this must have been a crop of importance in the valleys of the region. 

Pliny commented upon the cedars of the region, but did not comment as to whether they were cut and traded or not. 

The nature of industries in the city is also unknown at this stage as little effort has gone into exploring the "suburban" parts of the ruined city.  

In the book The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire: Citizens, Elites and and Benefactors in Asia Minor by Arjan Zuiderhoek, Cambridge University Press, 2009, it is mentioned that the Demosthenaia festival involved a suspension of tolls and levies with the goal being that during the duration of the festival traders from other areas would come and negotiate their business in the city. A sort of temporary "free-trade zone" to boost the local economy and ensure that the festival goers had a sufficient supply of foods and consumer goods. The author speculates that this might imply that tariffs on trading were high enough or trading good enough in normal times that the city could offer this dispensation at special times.  

Another interesting document is a treaty agreed between the citizens of the nearby city of Tlos and the Termessians. As has been mentioned elsewhere the Termessians may actually be the citizenry of Oenoanda with the city and territory having a different name to the inhabitants. In any case, in the article Une convention entre cités en Lycie du Nord, In: Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 140e année, N. 3, 1996. pp. 961-980 bu Christian Le Roy the author discusses the rights the Tlosians allowed to the Termessians. Amongst these was the cutting of wood from their territory (though whether this was firewood or wood for construction/furniture etc has not been established) and rights of pasturage, which is seemingly summer grazing. 

The author also makes reference to the floating of logs down the Xanthos river from the region of Tlos and Oenoanda to the sea. 

For the forestry resources of the zone he cites Revue de Géographie alpine 47, 1959, p. 373-385: "les oliviers ne dépassent pas les 900 m ; Puis, on a les pins rouges, jusque vers 1000 m ; les pins noirs et les chênes vers 1 300 m ; les cèdres et genévriers jusque vers 1800 m au sud et 2100 m au nord. Pour le pourtour du massif étudié (audessus de la baie de Fethiye et de la plaine de Nif), l'auteur emploie l'expression de « grande sylve lycienne » (p. 378). Encore fait-il à bon droit observer que * ces hauteurs sont et ont été occupées aux limites de leurs possibilités » et que cette « surcharge pastorale » explique « la dévastation absolue de la forêt au-dessus de 1800 m et sa réduction à quelques taches au-dessus de 1550 m ». La couverture sylvestre devait être beaucoup plus dense dans l'Antiquité".

Thus we might be so daring as to suggest that the known economic activities of Oenoanda might have been trading in general, wood, wheat, wine, olives, animal husbandry. From this might also come woodworking, wool processing and some other as yet unknown manufacturing and value added activities linked to the raw materials it had at its disposal in the zone. 


Pliny, HN 12.61.132, 13.11.52, 16.59.137· Theophrastus, Historia plantarum, 3.12.3.

ANADOLU AKDENİZİ, Arkeoloji Haberleri, 2013-11, News of Archaeology from ANATOLIA’S MEDITERRANEAN AREAS: Oinoanda 2012, Report on the 2012 Campaign at Oinoanda, Martin BACHMANN

Une convention entre cités en Lycie du Nord In: Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 140e année, N. 3, 1996. pp. 961-


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