Three Ancient Greek Philosophers That Shaped Economy as We Know Today

Apr 28, 2022 | Articles, Economics, History

Adam Smith was an 18-th century philosopher, economist, author, and a person many of us know as the father of modern economics. His two books, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “Wealth of Nations” set the basics for modern economy.

These days, most of the universities of economics and business in the world teach their students about the origin of economy related to Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, and many other modern day economists.

But if you try to find the origin of all of these economic studies, look no further than Ancient Greece. Many regard Ancient Greece as the place where democracy was born. But you can also say that economy was born there as well. The word economy, and its origin, can be traced back to two Greek words meaning “household” and “distribute”. With that in mind, today, we will talk about three Ancient Greece philosophers that helped economy.


He is known as the “father of Greek didactic poetry”. Hesiod was a poet who active between 750 and 650 BC. He was active around the same time as Homer. Two of his complete epics have survived. The first one is THeogony, a hexametric poem of the genealogies of the Gods, relating to the myths of the gods.

But it is his second epic that has played a role in evolution of economics. In his “Works and Days”, he is the first one to talk about the problem of the scarcity of resources available and the dilemma of people between work and leisure. Hesiod talks about the “concept of competition”, which leads to an increase in production. Same as Homer, he says that “land constitutes a kind of security for its people”.


Xenophon was a historian, but also a soldier, a mercenary, and a student of Socrates. He actually left postwar Athens in the fourth century BC, and joined a Greek mercenary army of the Achaemenian prince Cyrus the Younger. He became involved in Cyrus’s rebellion against his brother.

But speaking of economy, in his work “Oeconomicus”, Xenophon gives an idea of “how the house should be managed”. He sticks to the farm, but that was what the house was for Ancient Greeks. Xenophon talks greatly about the concept of “management and leadership”. According to this philosopher, the proper management of a house was essentially based on the effectiveness of the leader. And he considered that similar virtues should prevail in the state as a whole.

He also talked about the concept of “division of labor”. This is the same concept you can find Adam Smith’s books. According to Xenophon, each person is engaged in tasks where he is more able and useful in order to increase efficiency.


There are not enough words that can describe the significance of Aristotle. Arguably considered the greatest philosopher in Ancient Greece, he set up three types of justice related to the exchange and distribution of goods.

According to Aristotle, “distributive justice considers distribution of goods to be in proportion to the value of people”. Trying to solve the paradox, he says that money are a common measure of everything, and make things commensurable and possible to equalize them. In his words, “money are a substance that has a telos, that individuals have devised a unit that supplies a measure on the basis of which just exchange can take place.

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Thomas B.