Monopolies In The Ancient Orient -- By: William Notz

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 074:294 (Apr 1917)
Article: Monopolies In The Ancient Orient
Author: William Notz


Monopolies In The Ancient Orient

William Notz, Ph.D.

The great economic problems of to-day arising out of private and state monopoly of trade are by no means phenomena which are characteristic exclusively of our time. We find striking parallels in the earliest historical documents of man. Among the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Jews, — and, in fact, throughout the Ancient Orient, — prototypes can be pointed out of those phases of modem commercial and industrial organization and business practices which are commonly known by the comprehensive term of trusts and trade monopolies. This need not seem surprising in view of the high development of commerce and trade among peoples whose genius was directed preeminently towards commercial pursuits. The monuments of ancient civilizations, which the pick and the spade of excavators and archaeologists unearthed in recent years in the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Jordan and the Nile, furnish abundant evidence of the fact that the Semites concentrated their racial tenacity and adaptability with remarkable success upon commerce and trade.

Particularly interesting examples of monopolistic business practices are met with in the Hellenistic era, during the reign of the Ptolemies, and in the times of the Talmud, as well as in ancient Greece and Rome. Indeed, the very word “mo-

nopoly” was coined, it seems, at that time. Aristotle discussed the subject of monopolies at some length in his Politics. A reflex of these conditions among the nations surrounding the Jewish people of old is noticeable in different parts of the Old and the New Testament. Examined together, as a whole, and from this new perspective, these Bible passages shed a wealth of new light on our knowledge of economic conditions in Bible times.

Furthermore, additional interest attaches to the subject here discussed for the reason that certain economic measures and policies of a monopolistic nature, to which several European states have taken recourse since the outbreak of the present world war, and which at the time were looked upon by many as entirely new and revolutionary in character, can be shown to have analogous parallels away back in the days of the Old Testament. Economic problems, similar in many ways to those with which our modern statesmen are constrained to wrestle, confronted the rulers of the ancient empires of the East. It is a significant fact that, in the days of Joseph in Egypt and of the writer of the Apocalypse, problems arising out of a scarcity of food supplies were solved along lines which were substantially the same as those adopted by several European governments at the present time.

The buying up and ...

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