Modern discussions of the private traders who accompanied Classical Greek armies on overland campaigns have considered these traders to have been important sources of food for Greek armies on the march. A careful reading of the passages mentioning private traders following Classical Greek land campaigns into and in hostile territory demonstrates, however, that they never played a structurally important role in the provisioning of these campaigns. In other pre-industrial Near Eastern and European societies, too, sutlers never played more than a minor role in the food supply of armies. This was due to one basic fact: the high costs of transporting grain and other basic foods overland using pre-industrial technology left no room to traders for profit in selling these foods to soldiers. Private traders, in fact, followed Greek armies on campaigns into enemy territory primarily in order to purchase their plunder at low prices, with the goal of making profits from the resale of this plunder in urban centers. Traders did, however, make a crucial contribution to the food supply of Classical Greek armies when those armies were operating for extended periods of time over short distances away from urban centers in home or allied territory and
Journal of Ancient History – de Gruyter
Published: Dec 1, 2015
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