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Factor Markets in Hellenistic and Parthian Babylonia (331 BCE-224 CE)

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AbstractBecause the evidence is meagre, this article takes a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach to the markets of land, labour, and capital in Hellenistic and Parthian Babylonia. The evidence consists of administrative documents from Babylon and Uruk (Babylonian clay tablets in cuneiform script), from Dura Europos on parchment or papyrus (in Greek and Aramaic), and from Avroman in (Greek and Pahlavi). These texts suggest that the land market was restricted by the legal rights of king and temple. There is little information on wage labour. Slave labour existed, but neither its role in the economy nor the importance of the slave trade has been adequately assessed. The use of credit, interest, cheques, and other financial instruments is attested, but its significance is small, not least because of the prevalence of iconic interest rates of 20%, set by tradition rather than by market forces. As far as the evidence goes, the markets for land, labour, and capital were restricted by tradition and by the claims of king and temples on land, while the commodity markets were much more market-oriented.

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