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By Steven Johnstone

Content material: Haggling -- Measuring -- protecting music -- Valuing -- taking part -- Apportioning legal responsibility -- identifying -- universal greek weights and measures

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Second, the price is named by the buyer, not by the seller, an alteration not quite as drastic as it first appears. When the seller named the price, the buyer still assented. But this points to the most fundamental change in the Protagorean practice: the buyer names the price unilaterally. 64 These stories reveal that buyers approached exchanges feeling disadvantaged by their relative ignorance of what was being sold. The nature of a sophist’s teaching may be more uncertain than the nature of, say, wheat, but (as I argue in chapter 3) in ancient Greece no goods adhered to quality standards, so that they were all (to some degree) dubious.

86 This story highlights an important point about haggling: the refusal to negotiate could itself be a tactic within negotiations. It also shows that the language of bargaining could include stock phrases common among many merchants, as Aristotle reports: “Whenever [people on Naxos] . . ”87 In the game of bargaining in the agora, however ritualized, success depended on mastery of the conventions, especially the patter. Buyers and sellers negotiated, then, not (or not only) by exchanging numbers, which converged on the final price, but by using gestures and language, both cunning and conventional, to cap and forestall each other.

While they would display their goods (sometimes, it was suspected, with the best ones up front),71 the best way to attract attention was to shout. 72 Such spiels could indicate the quality of the goods as well: a fish seller might ballyhoo his anchovies as sweeter than honey. 75 To the potential buyer’s initial inquiry, merchants could respond in a number of ways. As you can see in the collection of complaints about fish sellers at the beginning of Athenaeus, book 6, some merchants responded nonverbally.

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