Industry in the sense of hard labour most Greeks and Romans knew all too well; total freedom from productive labour (scholē, ōtium) remained a governing ideal from one end of pagan antiquity to the other. But industry in the modern sense of large‐scale manufacturing businesses they knew hardly at all, let alone as the standard form of manufacturing unit. That role was always filled by the individual workshop, and the largest Greek or Roman industrial labour force on record barely reached three figures. Nor did élite Greeks and Romans value labourers any more highly than labour as such; this was partly because manual labour, even when not actually performed by slaves (see slavery), was nevertheless apt to attract the opprobrium of slavishness. As Herodotus put it, the Corinthians (see corinth) despised manual craftsmen the least, the Spartans the most—but all élite Greeks despised them. On the other hand, they felt boundless admiration for skill (technē, ars), and some forms of ancient craftsmanship demanded that quality in the highest degree. See art, ancient attitudes to; artisans and craftsmen.
Homer and Hesiod mention a wide variety of craftsmen, some of the more expert and specialized being non‐Greek. But only the metalworkers had their own workshops, and this accords with the flowering of bronze‐working associated with the panhellenic sanctuaries of Olympia, Delphi, and Delos. Their standards were eventually matched by the potters and (if they were separate) vase‐painters, esp. those of Athens, Argos, and Corinth; the last could also boast at least one shipbuilder of distinction by 700. In the course of the 7th and 6th cents. workshops and studios proliferated, no longer tied principally to sanctuaries. Depictions of potters, leather‐workers, and smiths occur on Attic black‐ and red‐figure vases, themselves often products of the highest craft and finish. As is shown by workers' names, many of the craftsmen were non‐Greek slaves.
The concomitant development of the Athenian empire and Piraeus in the 5th cent. provided a further stimulus to craftsmanship, both quantitative and qualitative. The Athenian trireme was a triumph of design and construction. No one, acc. to Plutarch, would wish actually to be Phidias, but the products of Phidias' extraordinary skill were universally admired. The anonymous labours of an army of stone‐carvers have left us a legacy of finely dressed masonry and decorative sculptural detail carved in the hardest material (marble). Gem‐cutters and die‐engravers (see coinage, greek) like those who produced the decadrachms of Syracuse were hardly less accomplished. At Athens craftsmanship interacted with high culture and politics. Plato's Socrates was fond of analogies from craftsmanship, and the real Socrates was reputedly the son of a stonemason. The fathers of Cleon, Isocrates, and Demosthenes (2) made their money through employing skilled slave craftsmen—tanners, aulos‐makers, and cutlers respectively. But the biggest ‘industrialists’ on record in Classical Athens were the metic brothers Polemarchus and Lysias, even if it is not certain that their 120 slaves all worked full time in the family shield‐making business (esp. lucrative, thanks to the Peloponnesian War). Some such skilled slaves were privileged to be set up in business on their own account by their masters. The craftsmen of Athens were sedentary, but itinerant Greek craftsmen operated as far afield as southern Russia and the Alps, working on the spot under commission from local rulers.
Subjects: Classical Studies.