Chapter 746: Thuriis Chamber of Commerce (II)
Chapter 746: Thuriis Chamber of Commerce (II)
With the two most influential of Thurii's great merchants choosing to be courteous, Sostratus made no further refusals. As soon as he stood up, the other merchants stopped their discussions and listened to him intently to show their respect. Although he was the youngest of these merchants, they respected him not only for his background but also for his abilities.
“Everyone, I'm going to make a long story short so as not to delay everyone's time to make money.” As soon as he said this, laughter erupted around him.
“After we brought down the grains purchased at great expense to the port, His Majesty summoned me and expressed his gratitude for our generous donation. At the same time, he said that it was because of this grain that allowed him to get the opportunity to lead a large army himself to conquer Rome in central Italia, so he hoped that we, the merchants of Thurii, who had donated the grain, would follow his army on the expedition-”
“What?! After donating so much grain, we still need to go out and continue providing military supplies for the army?!!” The wine merchant Kalmandes interjected in dissatisfaction.
“Silence, Kalmandes!” Sostratus glared at him and warned, “Whether you have uttered such nonsense out of stupidity or for some other reason, do not insult the great King Davos again or simply get out of here!”
“Indeed, no one shall insult the great King Davos!” Tios emphasised loudly, making everyone agree.
Most merchants in the kingdom of Theonia held King Davos in high esteem, not only because the bank founded by his wife had considerably boosted the kingdom's commerce but also because he invented a new business management model and fine division of labour in the workshops. He had made such an unprecedented innovation to Theonia's commerce that some merchants even believed that Davos wasn't just a descendant of Hades but had also received the favour of Hermes.
“Kalmandes didn't disrespect His Majesty Davos. He was just worried that we would make endless donations for the expedition,” said the shipbuilder Miciales, defending his friend.
Miciales was the cousin of Enanilus, while Kalmandes was the son of Ariphes, both coming from a prominent family of the former Thurii, and they were closely related through marriage. Although Enanilus and Ariphes were imprisoned after being implicated in the Pollux case, their family and industry were not significantly affected, except for their political position. In fact, Enanilus and Ariphes were released a few years ago after serving their sentences but could no longer show their faces in public for the sake of their household because of the scandal.
“It seems that you two are really stupid!” The slave merchant Sepernus, who had urged Sostratus to speak up earlier, stood up.
Although the slave trader was a huge and talkative man, there were still those who wanted to get close to him because he could always provide satisfactory slaves. And since the kingdom of Theonia had a great need for slaves, Sepernus could make a lot of money from his rich source of slaves.
He laughed and scoffed, “Do you still not understand that this is what His Majesty Davos gave us in return for the grain we donated?! Since the founding of Theonia, when has the army needed merchants to accompany them on a campaign? They never have, but now they did! This means we can get the prisoners captured by the king's mighty legions in time and at the best price! We could also purchase the army's spoils of war at the best price! We can also occupy the shops in the towns captured by the army at the best price and take the market first!…”
Sepernus's rousing words lit up everyone's eyes, and some even exclaimed excitedly, “All hail His Majesty Davos!”
Still, Kalmandes unconsciously murmured in a low voice, “Don't be too happy too soon; the army won't necessarily win this expedition.”
But the nearby woollen-textile merchant Phrasias happened to hear it.
Phrasias, formerly a textile merchant from Euboea, had come to Thurii to trade. But after discovering that Theonian wool was not only of excellent quality but also cheap and plentiful (thanks to the two excellent ranches in the regions of Lucania and Bruttii), he decided to settle down as a citizen of Theonia and started making woollen textiles instead. He then took loans from the Bank of Cheiristoya, abandoned the traditional family workshop and adopted the fine division of labour to manage the workers in a large workshop. Soon after, he expanded his clothing workshops dramatically, producing woollen carpets, magnificent woollen chitons, woollen himation, etc., which became popular among the Theonian population and were then exported to other city-states inland, making him one of the most major merchants.
Upon hearing Kalmandes' words, he immediately rebuked loudly, “When has our army ever lost under the leadership of His Majesty Davos? To look forward in the defeat of the king's army is not the attitude a Theonian citizen should have!”
Seeing the angry looks on everyone's faces, Kalmandes quickly explained, “I…I just hope that the army will not be too careless…because I have heard…that Rome is a mighty city-state…”
“I heard that the army going to Rome consisted of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Legions, and the First and Second Cavalry Legions!” Sostratus interrupted him and exclaimed, “That's an army of nearly sixty thousand men! Everyone, I remember that there had never seen such a large number of soldiers even at the Battle of Crotone and the subsequent Battle of Brindisi*! So even if Rome is powerful, they could never withstand such a powerful army!” (the battle against the Messapi-Peuceti Alliance in the conquest of Apulia by Davos)
“Sostratus is right; we are bound to win another great victory! It's no wonder you're so excited, Sepernus; you must have already known about it and know you'll get many cheap Latin slaves and make a fortune! So what are the rest of you still hesitating about?!…” With Dicaeapolis adding fuel to the flames, the atmosphere in the hall immediately became lively.
The merchants announced their intention to personally follow King Davos' army into Latium, opening a new trading base in central Italy.
Amidst the crowd's noise, Phrasias' question made everyone look at Sostratus, “Head, are we, the merchants of Thurii, the only ones to follow the army into Latium?”
“Of course not.” Sostratus then said helplessly, “The merchants of Rhegium… they too had donated a large amount of grain to the kingdom.”
“Alas…” The crowd sighed with regret
Tios suddenly spoke up, “You don't need to worry about that. Latium has a vast land with many city-states, so even if there are more Rhegian merchants to come, there will still be enough profit for us. Additionally, their merchants were mostly involved in shipment trade, warehouse and lodging services(this is due to Rhegium's special geographical position, which is poor and narrow but is the most important trade route in the Mediterranean), while we earn our profits through tangible goods. On the contrary, we can strengthen our cooperation…”
“Tios is right. I have heard that the coastal city-states in the Latium region have small and poor ports due to a lack of economic development and stagnant trade. Thus it would be better to give them to the Rhegians for expansion and management since they are the best at running them. My men and slaves could also stay in their inns and have them take care of the shipment, saving me a lot of work…” Sepernus' words lifted the gloom on the merchants' faces.
The inclusion of the Rhegian merchants indeed had little effect on most Thurian merchants. Still, it did affect a few of them, such as the transport and shipping trade, which competes directly with the main business of Sostratus.
But Sostratus is ambitious and confident. He had long had his eye on the shipping business of the Rhegian merchants, wanting to expand and upgrade his own fleet and expand his foreign channels through poaching and acquisition. Unfortunately, Rhegium had previously been a free city, and the Rhegian merchants were inseparable and difficult to approach. But now that the kingdom had thoroughly assimilated Rhegium, and the expedition had made it easier for him to approach the Rhegian merchants, he was confident that he could make significant gains.
But for the shipbuilder Miciales, the Rhegian merchants would put him under tremendous pressure, as he faced competition from King Davos's in-laws, Alkibiades.
During Miciales' cousin Enanilus served as Navarch of the Theonian Navy, Davos invited Alkibiades to build a shipyard in Thurii. Then, Enanilus' poor management, which led to a decline in the quality of the warships and the ordinary ships they produced, allowed Alkibiades' shipyard to take a large share of the market. Furthermore, Enanilus' downfall further unnerved their shipbuilders and workers, allowing their competitors to poach them.
By the time Miciales took over, the shipyard’s efficiency couldn’t compare to the past. However, with his determination to run the yard strictly and improve its technology, the quality of the ships improved dramatically, allowing them to regain some market share. Still, they were far from being able to compete with Alkibiades' shipyard. But by this time, the Ministry of Military had begun placing orders from Miciales while bluntly telling him it was the King's will. As a result, the others believed that King Davos had forgiven Enanilus' family, so they also began to approach Miciales, leading to a considerable increase in customers and bringing their family, with decades of shipbuilding history in Thurii, back to life.