Above: The theater at Epidaurus. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Ronny Siegel. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.
Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
polis | politics | political theory | kingship | tyranny | oligarchy | aristocracy | Athenian democracy | citizenship | freedom | demes/demoi | ethnicity | kinship | race | household | ekklesia | agora | euergetism | demagogues | stasis | ostracism | exile
In this comprehensive and accessible sourcebook, Ilias Arnaoutoglou presents a collection of ancient Greek laws, which are situated in their legal and historical contexts and are elucidated with relevant selections from Greek literature and epigraphical testimonies. A wide area of legislative activity in major and minor Greek city-states, ranging from Delphoi and Athens in mainland Greece, to Gortyn in Crete, Olbia in South Russia and Aegean cities including Ephesos, Samos and Thasos, is covered. Ilias Arnaoutoglou divides legislation into three main areas: the household - marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, sexual offences and personal status; the market-place - trade, finance, sale, coinage and leases; the state - constitution, legislative process, public duties, colonies, building activities, naval forces, penal regulations, religion, politics and inter-state affairs. Arnaoutoglou explores the significance of legislation in ancient Greece, the differences and similarities between ancient Greek legislation and legislators and their modern counterparts and also provides fresh translations of the legal documents themselves.
This book is an English version of the book originally published in French under the title of Économies et Sociétés en Grèce ancienne. The opportunity has been taken to correct some errors, update bibliographical references, add a few passage to the selection of ancient sources, and improve the material presentation in several respects. But otherwise this remains substantially the same book as the original French version. The book is aimed in the first place at an undergraduate audience, though it is hoped that it will also be of interest to a wiser, non-specialist readership interested in the history and civilization of Ancient Greece. It attempts to meet a need well-known to all those who have to teach Greek history in universities. Students, long dissatisfied with a purely political approach to Greek history, ask for more 'economic and social' history. One then has to answer--tand this book is a very modest attempt at an answer--that neither the 'economic' nor the 'social' category had in the Greek city the same independent status they now enjoy. The book takes its starting-point in this ambiguity; it accepts the challenge, but rejects the formulation of the question. Anyone who has been asked to explain once and for all the role played by slaves in social conflicts in the Greek world will understand what we mean.
In this careful and compelling study, Balot brings together political theory, classical history, and ancient philosophy in order to reconceive of courage as a specifically democratic virtue. Ranging from Thucydides and Aristophanes to the Greek tragedians and Plato, Balot shows that the ancient Athenians constructed a novel vision of courage that linked this virtue to fundamental democratic ideals, such as freedom, equality, and practical rationality. The Athenian ideology of courage had practical implications for the conduct of war, for gender relations, and for the citizens’ self-image as democrats. In revising traditional ideals, Balot argues, the Athenians reimagined the emotional and cognitive motivations for courage in ways that will unsettle and transform our contemporary discourses. Without losing sight of political tensions and practical conflicts, Balot illustrates the merits of the Athenian ideal, provocatively explaining its potential to enlarge our contemporary understandings of politics and ethics. The result is a remarkably interdisciplinary work that has significant implications for the theory and practice of democracy, both ancient and modern.
This comprehensive introduction to the ancient Greek economy revolutionizes our understanding of the subject and its possibilities. Alain Bresson is one of the world's leading authorities in the field, and he is helping to redefine it. Here he combines a thorough knowledge of ancient sources with innovative new approaches grounded in recent economic historiography to provide a detailed picture of the Greek economy between the last century of the Archaic Age and the closing of the Hellenistic period. Focusing on the city-state, which he sees as the most important economic institution in the Greek world, Bresson addresses all of the city-states rather than only Athens. An expanded and updated English edition of an acclaimed work originally published in French, the book offers a groundbreaking new theoretical framework for studying the economy of ancient Greece; presents a masterful survey and analysis of the most important economic institutions, resources, and other factors; and addresses some major historiographical debates. Among the many topics covered are climate, demography, transportation, agricultural production, market institutions, money and credit, taxes, exchange, long-distance trade, and economic growth. The result is an unparalleled demonstration that, unlike just a generation ago, it is possible today to study the ancient Greek economy as an economy and not merely as a secondary aspect of social or political history. This is essential reading for students, historians of antiquity, and economic historians of all periods.
This book is about time and local history in the Greek world. It argues that choices concerning the articulation and expression of time reflect the values of both those who ‘make’ it and their audiences. This study ranges from the widespread awareness of time's malleability and the perceived value of the past by the citizens of the Greek polis to the formal analysis of time-systems in Hellenistic scholarship. It addresses the development by historians of ways to articulate the long span of historical time, from the chronologies developed by those who wrote universal narratives to those whose stories were about the individual polis. The negotiation of time is of interest in any social context, but it carries particular resonance in the world of Greek poleis, where each community had its own calendar and ran to its own time. Both the articulation of time and the establishment of ‘shared’ histories have been seen as modes of self-expression for communities. An exploration of their intersection is, therefore, especially illuminating. By focusing on city-history, the creation of the past within a restricted community, it is possible to examine more closely the dynamics of how time and the past were ‘made’. Therefore, this study brings together the wider theme of ‘managing time’, with an exploration of how history was created at a local level, within a civic context. It looks at the construction of the past as a social activity, which both reflects and contributes towards the sense of a shared, civic identity.
Below: Unearthed walls and buildings at the site of ancient Sparta. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Creator: StanTravels. License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.
This collection of 14 strikingly original essays offers the general reader, the student and the scholar a rare and stimulating view of classical antiquity. Drawn from three decades of Finley's renowned scholarly inquiries, the essays focus on the community of the Greek city, the problem of slavery and dependent labor in the ancient world, and the Mycenaean and Homeric worlds of early Greece. Sir Moses provides brilliantly detailed analyses of important and often neglected aspects of classical society; each essay invites readers to rethink and redefine their own approach to the ancient world.
The business of politics - the vital process of conducting government through the dynamics of argument, conflict and decision-making - offers us one of the most revealing areas of insight into any society. Sir Moses Finley's exploration of politics in the city states of Greece and republican Rome yields insights into the arenas of political debate which have made a major impact on our understanding of the ancient world. The early political involvement of the free lower classes, the effect of war and conquest on political stability, and the ideological pressures which influenced the course of internal conflicts are salient themes in this stimulating investigation of the nature of government in Greece and Rome.
Polis and Politics: Studies in Ancient Greek History
ed. Pernille Flensted-Jensen et al, 2000
As a birthday present to leading Greek historian Mogens Hansen (director, Copenhagen Polis Centre), this collection of 36 scholarly articles treats the ancient Greek city-state. Papers in part one address the physical and community aspects of the polis, including recent trends in the study of Greek and Roman populations which Hansen helped shape (e.g. Demography and Democracy, 1986). Polis politics, democratic and oligarchic, occupies part two. Several papers in German and French will be Greek to English-speakers. Includes a poem extolling Hansen's contributions to the field, a color photo of the honoree, two plates of the location of inscribed laws in 4th century Athens, and a Hansen bibliography.
This volume is a significant contribution to the study of the ancient Greek vocabulary used to describe the local origins of individuals. It sheds much new light on ancient grammarians, and other ancient writers (many of them 'lost' in the sense that they survive only in quotations in later sources). At the heart of the volume is a study of the sources which lie behind an enigmatic but important treatise, which survives only in epitome: the Ethnika of the grammarian Stephanus of Byzantium. This supplement to the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names is the final work of its founding editor.
This book uses exile and exiles as a lens for investigating the later Classical and Hellenistic polis and the political ideas which shaped it. It discusses the rich evidence for varied forms of expulsion and reintegration of citizens of poleis across the Mediterranean, analysing the full range of relevant civic institutions, practices and debates. It also investigates civic activity and ideology outside the polis, addressing the complex and diverse political organisation, agitation and ideas of exiles themselves. The issue of the political and ethical status of exile and exiles necessarily raised fundamental questions about civic inclusion and exclusion, closely bound up with basic ideas of justice, virtue and community. This makes it possible to interpret the varied evidence for exile as a guide to the complex, dynamic ecology of political ideas within the later Classical and post-Classical civic world, including both taken-for-granted political assumptions and more developed political ideologies and philosophies. The book develops an argument that the rich Greek civic political culture and political thought of the period studied were marked by significant extremes, contradictions and indeterminacies. In particular, two contrasting fundamental paradigms of the good city, which often remained implicit, coexisted and sometimes competed with each other: a paradigm of the good city as a fraternal community of devoted citizens, dedicated to shared demanding goals; and a paradigm of the good city as a more egoistic association for mutual security, justice and advantage. The simultaneous influence of radical principles of solidarity and reciprocity, self-sacrifice and self-interest often helped to sustain civic life, but those ideals could also contribute, individually and collectively, to provoking acute civic tensions and even divisions, of which exile was a common result. The contrasting paradigms were thus integral to both civic unrest and civic flourishing, both stasis and stability.
This volume presents for the first time an in-depth analysis of the origins of Greek euergetism. Derived from the Greek for 'benefactor', 'euergetism' refers to the process whereby citizens and foreigners offered voluntary services and donations to the polis that were in turn recognised as benefactions in a formal act of reciprocation. Euergetism is key to our understanding of how city-states negotiated both the internal tensions between mass and elite, and their conflicts with external powers. This study adopts the standpoint of historical anthropology and seeks to identify patterns of behaviour and social practices deeply rooted in Greek society and in the long course of Greek history. It covers more than five hundred years and will appeal to ancient historians and scholars in other fields interested in gift exchange, benefactions, philanthropy, power relationships between mass and elite, and the interplay between public discourse and social praxis.
Below: The Temple of Apollo in the ruins of ancient Corinth. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Creator: Chris Oxford. License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Although the polis, or city-state, defined the essence of classical Greek civilization, evidence of its most basic characteristics is woefully inadequate. Now a leading scholar in the evaluation of data from the ancient world sheds new light on how those units were constituted. In a work of cutting-edge research, Hansen develops a novel method for estimating the overall size and local distribution of the Greek population throughout the ancient world—in both the Greek homeland and its colonies—and explains his reconstruction step by step. Reflecting the innovative work of the Copenhagen Polis Centre in its 2004 inventory of archaic and classical Greek city-states, Hansen’s book makes it possible for the first time to assess the total population of the ancient Greek world. For 232 out of circa 1,000 city-states, the size of the urban center can be estimated, and for 636 city-states, we have an idea about the size of the territory. Employing a “shotgun method” Hansen derives approximate population figures and argues that, in the age of Alexander the Great, the population of all the Greek city-states must have totaled some 8-10 million people. His new estimates take into account not only adult male citizens, but all inhabitants—citizens, foreigners, and slaves of both sexes and all ages. In addressing often-conflicting views on estimating populations, their distribution in various regions, and their settlement patterns within individual states, Hansen particularly challenges the long-standing opinion that the majority of ancient Greeks lived a rural life outside of poleis, and he calls for a reconsideration of long-held assumptions about the prevalence of a subsistence economy with little long-distance trade. Although quantifications of ancient history are never precise, they can provide us with valuable information about ancient societies. The Shotgun Method is a rigorous evaluation of data that puts antiquity in a new light and provides a new context for understanding many aspects of Greek history.
An enormous amount of literature exists on Greek law, economics, and political philosophy. Yet no one has written a history of trust, one of the most fundamental aspects of social and economic interaction in the ancient world. In this fresh look at antiquity, Steven Johnstone explores the way democracy and markets flourished in ancient Greece not so much through personal relationships as through trust in abstract systems—including money, standardized measurement, rhetoric, and haggling. Focusing on markets and democratic politics, Johnstone draws on speeches given in Athenian courts, histories of Athenian democracy, comic writings, and laws inscribed on stone to examine how these systems worked. He analyzes their potentials and limitations and how the Greeks understood and critiqued them. In providing the first comprehensive account of these pervasive and crucial systems, A History of Trust in Ancient Greece links Greek political, economic, social, and intellectual history in new ways and challenges contemporary analyses of trust and civil society.
Heroic figures such as Heracles, Perseus, and Jason were seen by the Greeks not as mythical figures but as real people who in a bygone age traveled the world, settled new lands, and left descendants who, generation after generation, could trace their ancestry back to the “time of heroes.” From the Homeric age to Byzantium, peoples and nations sharing the same fictive ancestry appealed to their kinship when forging military alliances, settling disputes, or negotiating trade connections. In this intriguing study of the political uses of perceived kinship, Jones gives us an unparalleled view of mythic belief in action. Throughout the centuries of Greek preeminence, the Roman Republic and Empire, and into the early Christian era, examples of kinship diplomacy abound. Ancient historians report, for instance, that when the forces of Alexander the Great reached what is now southern Pakistan they encountered a people called the Siboi, whom they judged to be descendants of Heracles. Since Alexander was himself a descendant of the same hero, the invading Macedonians and the Siboi were clearly kinsmen and so parted in peace. Examining the very origins of ancient diplomacy, and kinship as one of its basic constituents, this book addresses fundamental questions about communal and national identity and sheds new light on the force of Greek mythic traditions.
Sian Lewis explores the role of news and information in shaping Greek society from the sixth to the fourth centuries, b.c. Applying ideas from the study of modern media to her analysis of the functions of gossip, travel, messengers, inscriptions, and institutions in the polis, she demonstrates that news was a vital concern for the ancient Greeks. Specifically, the acquisition and exchange of information played a key role in determining status and power. Proceeding from a discussion of individual citizens involved in the exchange of news to an account of more complex forms of communication organized by the polis, Lewis traces the role of what we call news in a culture that was primarily oral. She contrasts the informal exchanges that occurred among travelers and merchants with the official announcements made by heralds and envoys. She also analyzes the motives behind such official announcements and the ways in which the authorities exerted control over the flow of information. Finally, she reconsiders the role of the political assembly and the origins of the public inscription, which has until now been assumed to have been the primary source of news for Greek citizens.
Ancient remains in Alexandria, Egypt. Image source: Unsplash. Creator: Mahamed Salama. License: Unsplash license.
Resistance to the tyrant was an essential stage in the development of the Greek city-state. In this richly insightful book, James F. McGlew examines the significance of changes in the Greek political vocabulary that came about as a result of the history of ancient tyrants. Surveying a vast range of historical and literary sources, McGlew looks closely at discourse concerning Greek tyranny as well as at the nature of the tyrants' power and the constraints on power implicit in that discourse. Archaic tyrants, he shows, characteristically represented themselves as agents of justice. Taking their self-representation not as an ideological veil concealing the nature of tyranny but as its conceptual definition, he attempts to show that, although the language of reform gave tyrants unprecedented political freedom, it also marked their powers as temporary. Tyranny took shape, McGlew maintains, through discursive complicity between the tyrant and his subjects, who presumably accepted his self-definition but also learned from him the language and methods of resistance. The tyrant's subjects learned to resist him as they learned to obey him, but when they rejected him they did so in such a way as to preserve for themselves the distinctive political freedoms that he enjoyed. Providing a new framework for understanding ancient tyranny, this book will be read with great interest by classicists, political scientists, and ancient and modern historians alike.
How did the classical Greek city come into being? What role did religion play in its formation? Athens, with its ancient citadel and central religious cult, has traditionally been the model for the emergence of the Greek city-state. But in this original and controversial investigation, Francois de Polignac suggests that the Athenian model was probably the exception, not the rule, in the development of the polis in ancient Greece. Combining archaeological and textual evidence, de Polignac argues that the eighth-century settlements that would become the city-states of classical Greece were defined as much by the boundaries of "civilized" space as by its urban centers. The city took shape through what de Polignac calls a "religious bipolarity," the cults operating both to organize social space and to articulate social relationships being not only at the heart of the inhabited area, but on the edges of the territory. Together with the urban cults, these sanctuaries "in the wild" identified the polis and its sphere of influence, giving rise to the concept of the state as a territorial unit distinct from its neighbors. Frontier sanctuaries were therefore often the focus of disputes between emerging communities. But in other instances, in particular in Greece’s colonizing expeditions, these outer sanctuaries may have facilitated the relations between the indigenous populations and the settlers of the newly founded cities. Featuring extensive revisions from the original French publication and an updated bibliography, this book is essential for anyone interested in the history and culture of ancient Greece.
Although there is constant conflict over its meanings and limits, political freedom itself is considered a fundamental and universal value throughout the modern world. For most of human history, however, this was not the case. In this book, Kurt Raaflaub asks the essential question: when, why, and under what circumstances did the concept of freedom originate? To find out, Raaflaub analyses ancient Greek texts from Homer to Thucydides in their social and political contexts. Archaic Greece, he concludes, had little use for the idea of political freedom; the concept arose instead during the great confrontation between Greeks and Persians in the early fifth century BCE. Raaflaub then examines the relationship of freedom with other concepts, such as equality, citizenship, and law, and pursues subsequent uses of the idea—often, paradoxically, as a tool of domination, propaganda, and ideology. Raaflaub's book thus illuminates both the history of ancient Greek society and the evolution of one of humankind's most important values, and will be of great interest to anyone who wants to understand the conceptual fabric that still shapes our world views.
Below: The remains of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus in modern Turkey. Image source: Unsplash.
Creator: Jennifer Martin. License: Unsplash license.
Political activity and political thinking began in the cities and other states of ancient Greece, and terms such as tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy and politics itself are Greek words for concepts first discussed in Greece. Rhodes presents in translation a selection of texts illustrating the formal mechanisms and informal workings of the Greek states in all their variety. From the states described by Homer out of which the classical Greeks believed their states had developed, through the archaic period which saw the rise and fall of tyrants and the gradual broadening of citizen bodies, to the classical period of the fifth and fourth centuries, Rhodes also looks beyond that to the Hellenistic and Roman periods in which the Greeks tried to preserve their way of life in a world of great powers. For this second edition the book has been thoroughly revised and three new chapters added.
What was ancient democracy like? Why did it spread in ancient Greece? An astonishing number of volumes have been devoted to the well-attested Athenian case, while non-Athenian democracy - for which evidence is harder to come by - has received only fleeting attention. Nevertheless, there exists a scattered body of ancient material regarding democracy beyond Athens, from ancient literary authors and epigraphic documents to archaeological evidence, out of which one can build an understanding of the phenomenon. This book presents a detailed study of ancient Greek democracy in the Classical period (480–323 BC), focusing on examples outside Athens. It has three main goals: to identify where and when democratic governments established themselves in ancient Greek city-states; to explain why democracy spread to many parts of Greece in this period; and to further our understanding of the nature of ancient democracy by studying its practices beyond Athens.
Individual and Community : The Rise of the Polis, 800-500 BC
During the three centuries from 800 to 500 B.C., the Greek world evolved from a primitive society--both culturally and economically--to one whose artistic products dominated all Mediterranean markets, supported by a wide overseas trade. In the following two centuries came the literary, philosophical, and artistic masterpieces of the classic area. Vital to this advance was the development of the polis, a collective institution in which citizens had rights as well as duties under the rule of law, a system hitherto unknown in human history. In this study, the first systematic exploration of the forces that created the political framework of Greek civilization, Chester Starr shows how the Greeks emerged form a Homeric world of individuals to the polis of 500 B.C. The age-old conflict between the self-serving demands of human beings and the less vocally-expressed needs of the community serves as the backbone of Starr's interdisciplinary analysis of the rise of the polis.
This is the first comprehensive study of ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation--laws that explicitly gave individuals incentives to "kill a tyrant." David Teegarden demonstrates that the ancient Greeks promulgated these laws to harness the dynamics of mass uprisings and preserve popular democratic rule in the face of anti-democratic threats. He presents detailed historical and sociopolitical analyses of each law and considers a variety of issues: What is the nature of an anti-democratic threat? How would various provisions of the laws help pro-democrats counter those threats? And did the laws work? Teegarden argues that tyrant-killing legislation facilitated pro-democracy mobilization both by encouraging brave individuals to strike the first blow against a nondemocratic regime and by convincing others that it was safe to follow the tyrant killer's lead. Such legislation thus deterred anti-democrats from staging a coup by ensuring that they would be overwhelmed by their numerically superior opponents. Drawing on modern social science models, Teegarden looks at how the institution of public law affects the behavior of individuals and groups, thereby exploring the foundation of democracy's persistence in the ancient Greek world. He also provides the first English translation of the tyrant-killing laws from Eretria and Ilion. By analyzing crucial ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation, Death to Tyrants! explains how certain laws enabled citizens to draw on collective strength in order to defend and preserve their democracy in the face of motivated opposition.
Below: The speaker's podium at the Pnyx, the assembly-ground of democratic Athens.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Jennifer Martin. License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
The Dark Age of Greece is one of the least understood periods of Greek history. A terra incognita between the Mycenaean civilization of Late Bronze Age Greece and the flowering of Classical Greece, the Dark Age was, until the last few decades, largely neglected. Now new archaeological methods and the discovery of new evidence have made it possible to develop a more comprehensive view of the entire period. Citadel to City-State explores each century from 1200 to 700 B.C.E. through an individual site―Mycenae, Nichoria, Athens, Lefkandi, Corinth, and Ascra―that illustrates the major features of each period. This is a remarkable account of the historical detective work that is beginning to shed light on Dark Age Greece.
Greek 'local histories', better called polis and island histories, have usually been seen as the poor relation of mainstream 'great' Greek historiography, and yet they were demonstrably popular and extremely numerous from the late Classical period into the Hellenistic. The extensive fragments and testimonia were collected by Felix Jacoby and have been supplemented since with recent finds and inscriptions. Yet while the Athenian histories have received considerable attention, those of other cities have not: this is the first book to consider the polis and island histories as a whole, and as an important cultural and political phenomenon. It challenges the common label of 'antiquarianism' and argues that their role in helping to create 'imagined communities' must be seen partly as a response to fragile and changing status in a changing and expanding Greek world. Important themes are discussed alongside case studies of particular places (including Samos, Miletus, Erythrai, Megara, Athens).
Unthinking the Greek Polis: Ancient Greek History Beyond Eurocentrism
This study explores how modern scholars came to write Greek history from a Eurocentric perspective and challenges orthodox readings of Greek history as part of the history of the West. Since the Greeks lacked a national state or a unified society, economy or culture, the polis has helped to create a homogenising national narrative. This book re-examines old polarities such as those between the Greek poleis and Eastern monarchies, or between the ancient consumer and the modern producer city, in order to show the fallacies of standard approaches. It argues for the relevance of Aristotle's concept of the polis, which is interpreted in an intriguing manner. Finally, it proposes an alternative way of looking at Greek history as part of a Mediterranean world-system.
Below: Neon lights up the Athenian night. Image source: Unsplash. Creator: Nikolaos Skliris. License: Unsplash license.