Ariadne: Resources for Athenaze


Farming in ancient Attica

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coin with image of barley
Barley, not wheat, was the most common grain grown in ancient Attica. This coin from Metapontum shows an ear of barley and to the right a mouse climbing up a stalk. Because the soil was so rocky and the terrain was so mountainous, it was difficult for Attic farmers to grow enough grain. They had to import two-thirds of the grain needed to survive.
Olive groves were popular among Attic farmers since olive trees could prosper despite the arid and rocky conditions. Average rainfall in Attica is only 20-40 cm.year. Olives produce oil for cooking, soap, and perfume.
young grapes
Vineyards were also common among Greek farmers. On the left are young grapes beginning to mature in June. The olive and the grape were the mainstay of ancient Attic farming. Both wine and oil were cash crops that were exported throughout the Mediterranean world.
sheep near Plataea
Attic farmers diversified to protect themselves from drought and other natural perils. Thus, in addition to grain and vegetables for daily food and cash crops such as olives and grapes, it was not uncommon for them to raise sheep and goats. Sheep prospered in the rocky terrain and were valuable for their milk and wool (clothing).
sheep grazing near Kleitor
Goats running through a ravine
Goats flourished, too, in areas that were impossible to farm.
goats near Kastelli
Here are five goats grazing in Arcadia, eyeing a visitor in their vicinity.
goat cheese drying
Goats, like sheep, were prized for their milk (cheese) and hair (blankets, rugs, clothing, etc.), and skins (wineskins and other leather items). On the left you can see goat cheese (called mizithra) curing.

Explore more images of grain and barley (Perseus)

Read more about ancient farming and processing ancient food (Kelsey Museum)

Photo credit: Silver stater, Metapontum; Dewing 380, reverse;
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Dewing Greek Numismatic Foundation, September 1990

Other photos on this page: John Gruber-Miller © 2012