The History of Direct Selling via the DSA:
In the 5th century A.D., Athens was involved in a great deal of direct selling. Many producers who sold direct to the consumer without the intervention of a middleman, continued to sell their goods in this fashion, despite the growing urban population which spawned a new class of retailers. The direct seller of the 5th century either sold his wares about the street or exhibited them for sale on stalls and in shops. Others traveled from place to place, following armies on the march. They visited great festivals and fairs as well, and sold from village to village.
The 10th century marked the beginning of worldwide economic expansion. As commercial opportunities grew, so did the opportunities for the direct seller. He was the native merchant in Western Europe, for example, during the Middle Ages, and he played an important role in bringing about the perpetuation of trade during the Commercial Revolution of the 10th to 13th centuries. He witnessed great progress in road building at this time. In France, the direct seller contributed to the growth of trade by bringing “novelties” from the large cities to small villages. Many of the more prosperous French towns were graces with the opportunity to buy woolen and silk belts, bonnets, brass rings, thimbles and writing tablets from the direct seller.
The traveling merchant was cited in mythology as a notable direct seller. Ulysses, the mythic hero, once posed as a merchant. The little tale, repeated by many ancient authors in many different forms, makes reference to Ulysses as a traveling merchant. The antedates the American peddler by almost 3,000 years. At a palace, Ulysses offered ornaments for sale that he had placed on his arm. The king’s daughters were “engrossed with the contents of the merchant’s pack.”