ISBN: 978-2-87457-118-3

Athènes et les mines du Laurion durant l’époque classique

 = Paper = 

by Christophe FLAMENT, in Res Antiquae 17, 2020.

This study is devoted to the mining district of Laurion (Attika, Greece) during the Classical Period, and more specifically to the impacts the exploitation of those silver mines had on the Athenian history from the environmental, social, economical, and political points of view. During Antiquity, the atmosphere in Laurion was reputed highly noxious, and it is hardly surprising: it should be keep in mind that to produce a single gram of silver approximately 500 g of lead had to be refined, an operation that required more than 4,5 kg of wood. Given the huge quantities of silver produced every year (20 tons annually during the intensive phases of exploitation in my estimation) tree cover of Laurion of course quickly disappeared. The Laurion district was also characterised by the high concentration of technological devices, sometimes extremely innovative, but also by a very large workforce (tens of thousands of slaves), favouring thus the development of important local grain and slave markets. More fundamentally, the very large amounts of silver produced in Laurion totally changed the course of the Athenian history. In 483/2 B.C., Laurion’s silver made possible the construction of a war fleet that was then displayed against the Persian invaders; this abundance of silver also leads to the tremendous development of coinage as well as its large dissemination, not only on the Athenian territory, but also all over the Aegean area, through the sophisticated tax system of the Delian League.

Keywords: Athens, Laurion, mines, silver, coinage, pollution
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