A Game of Timber Monopoly: Atheno-Macedonian Relations on the Eve of the Peloponnesian War

by Konstantinos Karathanasis

Hesperia, Volume 88, Issue 4
Page(s): 707-726
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.88.4.0707
Year: 2019


By 432 B.C., according to Thucydides' cursory account (1.57.2-3), the alliance of Athens with Perdikkas's internal enemies had precipitated a deterioration in the formerly amiable Atheno-Macedonian relations. This paper focuses on this peculiar termination of goodwill with Perdikkas through the lens of timber commerce. The author maintains that Perdikkas effectively opposed Athenian imperialism by restricting his monopolistic supply of silver fir (Abies alba), since timber from this Abies species was an unrivaled resource for shipbuilding and, according to archaeobotanical data, was available only in Macedon. As a result, the shift of allegiance recorded by Thucydides emerges as part of an elaborate Athenian strategy that, among other advantages, would also facilitate access to invaluable shipbuilding resources.