Oswyn Murray, Simon Price, The Greek City from Homer to Alexander. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Pp. xiv + 372, 19 figures and 4 plates. ISBN 0-19-814888-7. $72.00.
Reviewed by John Dillery, The University of Michigan.
In their preface to The Greek City from Homer to Alexander, a collection of fourteen essays which (in every case but four) began as papers delivered at an Oxford Ancient History Seminar during 1986/7, the editors explain that the purpose of the book is to present studies of the Greek polis from a wide range of methodological approaches that have, since the publication of A. H. M. Jones' similarly titled study The Greek City from Alexander to Justinian (Oxford, 1940), assumed a more central position in recent scholarship. The editors also state that their intention in bringing together the essays was not to produce a comprehensive treatment of the polis, but rather one which would "stimulate thought" (vii); there is no doubt that they succeeded. Not only are the individual contributions of superior quality, they have been judiciously arranged so that the collection presents fruitful points of contact and dissent. Although some may object to particular views found in the new Greek City, all ancient historians will want to read it, and all will find it illuminating.
Since the book is a series of interconnected essays on the polis, it is appropriate first to comment on the qualities of the collection as a whole, and then to consider the individual contributions, touching especially on issues which emerge more than once in the book. As the subtitle of the book suggests, the chronological range of the essays stretches from the archaic period to the demise of the independent polis with the conquest of Macedon -- precisely the point at which Jones' work begins. The geographical range embraces the whole of the Mediterranean basin, from Spain to the Black Sea, and (for purposes of comparison) even points beyond (e.g. rural Britain, Korea, and modern America). However, setting these two limits aside, as one proceeds through the book one feels more and more that the focus turns increasingly on Athens, and Athens of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. The reason for this shift away from the Greek world in general to Athens in particular has a ready explanation: while the first two subsections, "the City in Mediterranean History" and "the Geography of the City," require a view that need not be Athenocentric, the third group of essays, "the Institutions of the City" (totaling six out of the fourteen essays), has to rely on evidence from the best documented city of the archaic and classical periods -- namely Athens. It should be noted in all fairness that the editors themselves admit only partial success in preventing the book from becoming an examination of Athens alone (vii).
Murray's introductory essay, "Cities of Reason," serves as a useful guide to the logic behind much of the collection. In the beginning of the essay he argues that two methodological problems beset students of the ancient Greek polis. In the first place we are suspicious of coherent views of the polis from antiquity, both those presented by informed "students" of the polis (i. e. Thucydides and Aristotle) and those which Murray styles "sophisticated mythic representations." The second problem, related to the first, is that modern observers of the polis tend to impose rigid models on ancient evidence and also create coherence (that is they get rid of "untidiness"). For Murray the same criticism can be levelled at both ancient and modern coherent views: "the more coherent a picture of any aspect of society, the more false it is likely to be" (4). It is this conviction which explains the format of the book; in a collection of essays a number of views can be brought to bear and consequently the hidden dangers of coherence can be minimized.
Murray identifies a central question confronting students of the ancient Greek city-state: "how rational was the Greek polis?" (4). He argues that the answers to this question can be grouped into two camps, one inspired by the work of Max Weber and the other by Émile Durkheim (5). For Murray the Weberian view maintains that the Greeks were able to separate politics from other social structures and were consequently in a position to privilege "the political" and also develop an "independent type of discourse about politics" (7: it would have been helpful if Murray explained what precisely he meant by the term "the political"; see Schmitt-Pantel on the "political domain," 203). The view shaped by Durkheim, on the other hand, sees the polis as essentially undifferentiated -- "no absolute divide between different spheres of activity, public and private" (5) -- wherein all social structures (including "the political") are essentially religious in nature. Although Murray vigorously challenges the view that there was continuity between pre-state and polis structures, a point in sympathy with the views of Weber, he ends up endorsing a modified Durkheimian model. Murray believes that instead of religion standing at the center of polis structures, we ought to imagine that the tendency towards political organization is itself the essence of Greek society: as he puts it, "the polis as a rational form of political organization is the expression of the collective consciousness of the Greeks" (19). It is the polis in other words which "dominates religion and the family and gentile structures, rituals of death, military organization and the rites of commensality" (19); this seems in essence to mean no more than that "the political" is at the heart of the life of the polis, a point that all will endorse.
One topic that is missed in Murray's introduction is the issue of state-formation; it should be noted that the two theoretical models he deals with assume the existence of the polis. Since a significant amount of work has been done recently on this question, it would have been useful to see how Murray fit his views of the rationality of the polis into this larger problem.
I shall now turn to a brief consideration of some of the more representative essays from each subsection of the collection, noting points of connection with the other contributions as I proceed.
The City in Mediterranean History
In his essay, "Mobility and the Polis," Nicholas Purcell argues against the view which maintains that Greece at the end of the "Dark Ages" and the beginning of the archaic period was an isolated, primitive, and immobile society. Purcell argues that the Greeks of this period were united by linguistic, cultural, and organizational continuities or "homogeneities," and that these widespread similarities suggest both "movement within the Greek world" and connections to the non-Greek world as well -- the cultures that bounded the Greek world (36). In arguing for greater mobility in the Greek world, Purcell also wants to challenge tendencies which he argues support the primitive and static "small Greece" model: commitment to the idea of progress and culture, acceptance of the belief that the Greeks were discouraged to travel because of fear of the sea, and the undervaluing of Greek contact with the Near East (32-34). He suggests that the period of the Greek apoikia ought to be connected to the general movement west of eastern dynasties (Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian) in search of new areas to exploit (38-44).
Purcell builds up a picture of a world wherein information was passed between the numerous microregions of the Mediterranean via local elites, a process which facilitated the maritime exchange of commodities and the consequent movement of populations throughout the first millennium (49-54). But by the fifth century, Purcell argues, the Greek world had moved away from the homogeneous and mobile Mediterranean milieu and became "self-conscious and xenophobic" (57-58). As a result of this change in attitude new concepts emerged in the Greek world to help explain for the Greeks their earlier participation in the mobility and exchange common in the entire region: thus the development of the such ideas as apoikia and metropolis, epelys and enoikos, phuge and anastasis. On this last point, I do not see why the ideas represented by these words have to be thought of as retrojected back to the eighth century (55); surely the exile and stranger are familiar from the world of Homer (exile: Bellerophon, Iliad 6.158; stranger: Odysseus, Odyssey passim, but see esp. 19.308ff.).
While Purcell is quite convincing on the mobility of individual ancient Greeks, it is very difficult to imagine the type of Greek community which would have participated in these widespread movements; and it is precisely where he attempts to describe the structure of society in mobile Greece that his argument seems weakest. The linchpin of Purcell's paper is his identification of the appropriate model for archaic Greece of resource acquisition. He dismisses the primitivist pastoral model as well as the later model of "maritime movements of the world of the apoikia" (43). He argues instead for the applicability of a Near Eastern model, and it is here he runs into difficulties. He writes: "the Levantine power structures were shaped by their requisitioning systems; in the Mediterranean world, too, networks of dependence and allegiance, obligations and services, shaped the bare movements of what was valued" (43). It seems as though Purcell is claiming for archaic Greece a vertical hierarchy along the lines of the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent. Yet, as Wittfogel has suggested (Oriental Despotism 207 and 367; cf. Purcell, 43 n.19), archaic Greece evolved away from the structures Purcell is arguing for. The Near East, with its wealth of resources, seems an inappropriate place to look for structures to apply to Greece which, while not "small," was not as richly endowed and had a much more varied ecology (see Rackham, 98-99, on "the peril of generalization" regarding the landscape of Greece), giving rise to a "multicentered society" (Wittfogel's term).
While Purcell looks for continuities between the Greek and non-Greek worlds (and finds himself in difficulties as a result -- the danger of the quest for coherence?), the companion piece to his essay, Bruno d'Agostino's "Military Organization and Social Structure in Archaic Etruria," also deals with the issue of the interaction between Greek and non-Greek culture; but unlike Purcell, d'Agostino does not look for continuities, rather points of difference. D'Agostino sets out to problematize the adoption for archaic Etruria of the Greek model of the development of hoplite warfare and consequent social change. This essay fits into his more general effort to show how the application of Greek models on Etruscan state-formation is problematic ("Image and Society in Archaic Etruria," JRS 79  1-10).
D'Agostino challenges the assumption, based primarily on Diodorus 23.2.1, that the Etruscan army was a hoplite one (64-65). For his own reconstruction of early Etruscan warfare, he turns to archaeological evidence, especially from funerary contexts (tombs and gravestones); readers will find his documentation extremely useful. D'Agostino dismisses the earliest visual examples of hoplite formations in Etruria as evidence for what the Etruscan army was like on the grounds that they were copied from Corinthian examples "merely as simple decorative patterns" (67). He argues instead that the preponderance of representations of individual warriors and heroic duels suggest that single combat was the chief mode of warfare. While he admits that there are Attic vases depicting single combats at a time when the phalanx was known to be in use, he argues that any parallel with Etruria is imperfect; in the case of Athens, he maintains, there is other evidence which supports the existence of phalanx formation, while in Etruria no such evidence exists (69). Although the bulk of the essay is convincing, this argument seems unsound, being in the first instance ex silentio, and secondly, inconsistent: if we rule out early representations of the phalanx as decorative, why must we believe that illustrations of single combat document early martial practice in Etruria?
Down to the middle of the seventh century, d'Agostino maintains, burials in north and south Etruria are characterized by the relative scarcity of weapons and armor and, instead, the marked abundance of agalmata -- primarily large metal vessels -- "signs of rank and gentilicial continuity," that is to say items which according to d'Agostino imply the growth of a hoplitic class (71). Those implements of war which are found in these burials confirm the heroic, single-combat type of warfare: helmet, arms, and a chariot which taxis the warrior to the battlefield just as in Homer. While d'Agostino argues that the spread of Greek hoplitic armor throughout Etruria in the middle of the seventh century suggests that there was the corresponding emergence of an aristocracy (in northern Etruria especially), it is not one he would label a hoplite society, but rather a privileged elite with "a war-like character" (75). Indeed, by the sixth century "the image of the dead is even more distant from the hoplite" (77). What d'Agostino suggests took place at this time was the development of a society in Etruria of "timocratic character," one which valued the "familial oikos" (77). But in spite of this change, the new elite was still "bound up with the traditional gentilicial ideology," and there never emerged a true hoplite class. War was conducted instead by a "gentilicial hoplitic army" (81).
Unlike the foregoing essays, d'Agostino's chapter offers a complex picture of state-formation, one that does not resemble that which is sometimes argued for in Greek contexts. While one may not agree with everything he says, d'Agostino is wrestling with questions of contemporary scholarly significance, and his documentation of the issue of state-formation as it relates to archaic Etruria will be of lasting value.
The Geography of the City
Oliver Rackham's contribution, "Ancient Landscapes," is extremely important and challenging. It begins on a sobering note: "landscape history generates fallacies more than almost any other branch of learning" (85). An ecological historian of the British and Irish countryside, Rackham asks troubling questions and casts serious doubt on several long and uncritically held assumptions. In the first place he suggests that the ancient Greek landscape looked more like Greece of the late nineteenth century than the pristine or "aboriginal" Greece of the Mesolithic period (87, 96, 101). Rackham asks why the ancient Greeks were so dependent on cereals and did not make more use of alternative sources of nutrition such as fish, meat, olives (which were used more for oil), and figs (92), especially when such dependence on cereals meant that self-sufficiency (so much coveted in the Greek world) was made extremely difficult (106: cf. Anthony Snodgrass' contribution, "Survey Archaeology and the Rural Landscape of the Greek City," 113-114).
Looking at the problem of deforestation Rackham makes some startling observations: "erosion is an inherent property of the landscape and is not necessarily due to human action" (93). More importantly, Rackham informs us that the most common aboriginal tree in Greece, the prickly oak, cannot be destroyed by fire or grazing because it sprouts from the stump either as a tree or a shrub; consequently what was an open maquis due to "grazing, burning, and woodcutting" can quickly return to being a verdant woodland (95). Commenting on the prickly oak itself, Rackham notes that being "short, hard, crooked, and intractable" it would not have been suitable for the construction of large buildings or ships. In general, regarding the forestation of ancient Greece, he suggests that the biggest difference between the ancient and modern landscape would have been not the absence of trees but rather the absence of meadows and fens (97, 102: cf. Snodgrass on the size of lake Copais in antiquity, 129-130). Discussing the related issue of changes in topography, Rackham cautions modern scholars to be careful when making use of ancient descriptions of the environment: they show a propensity to record sudden shifts and not gradual new growth. He prefers soldiers and hunters (e.g. Xenophon) to "literary and philosophical authors" (96-97). Rackham makes no mention of historians in his evaluation; one would like to know what he thinks of Herodotus' description of the geological prehistory of Thessaly (7.129), or Thucydides' description of the silting-up of the Acheloos river (2.102.3-4) -- both passages where gradual change is noticed. In keeping with the cautionary tone of the essay, Rackham warns against making generalizations for the whole of Greece. He stresses that the Greek landscape was extremely varied, so that what may hold true regarding the physical realities of one part of Greece may simply not hold in another part (98-99). In the second half of his paper Rackham considers the settlement patterns of ancient Greece; he believes there was an extensive spread of population in villages, hamlets, farms, and outbuildings "lived in only seasonally" (102). For Rackham, the number of settlements, and therefore the size of the population, probably varied according to whether they had markets available for their crops (107). Rackham concludes his paper by challenging the notion that Greece was a "degraded landscape," one which "was mismanaged and ruined" by the ancient Greeks (109). He contends that "most of the erosion took place in the Pleistocene or earlier" (110), and that as a result woods and springs were even rare in ancient Greece -- a fact reflected by the ancient Greek propensity to situate gods in those places (111: this seems far-fetched).
Rackham's essay is one of the best in the collection. It challenges many standard assumptions about what ancient Greece was like. Consequently its value is significant and it should be consulted by all historians of the Greek world.
Lucia Nixon and Simon Price contribute "The Size and Resources of Greek Cities." They propose an elegant thesis: to use the Athenian tribute lists not to illuminate the empire of Athens, but rather to see what information the lists provide regarding the contributing allies (137). Noting that little scholarly attention has been paid to the overall pattern of the figures found in the tribute lists (141), Nixon & Price observe, using the tribute assessment of 441 on the grounds that it is the best preserved (140), that 71% of the contributors accounted for 14% of the total contribution, meaning that 29% or about one-third contributed 86% (Figure 12 brings out the disparity well). This observation allows Nixon & Price to subdivide the contributors into "big spenders" and "little spenders" (noting along the way that of course the lists do not include the ship-states, 143, and cf. 138 and 164).
They turn their attention next to establishing the method of assessment, or what accounted for the disparity in payments. After their unsuccessful revolt from the Persians, the Ionians were assessed according to extent of territory. Although the Athenians modelled their tribute system on the Persian, they did not follow this assessment policy (146, 148). Nixon & Price canvass the possibilities. They dismiss population size on the grounds that there are no census figures (146-147); furthermore, if one calculates from amount paid to population size using a reasonable approximation of adult male citizens/talent paid, absurdly large figures result for the larger payers (147). Although the Greeks were quite able to measure military manpower, Nixon & Price also rule that out as a possible basis for assessment because the majority of contributing states paid well below one talent or the equivalent of one trireme (147). The most satisfactory conjecture for what determined tribute, according to Nixon & Price, is the type(s) of resource available in the assessed territory (149); Plutarch Aristides 24.1 and ML 69.19-22 are cited in support (150). They argue that the reason potential resource was used as the index for tribute payment is that "tribute was not a tax but, in principle at least, a payment in place of military (and especially naval) service. The payments had to be related to the military potential of states in terms both of citizen population and of wealth derived from all possible sources" (151: cf. Rackham's discussion of the variety of wealth to be derived from any given area in Greece, especially the remarkable case of Tarrha in Crete, 108-109). Nixon and Price examine representatives of both the "big" and "little spenders" in detail, accounting for what made the larger contributors prosperous (they look at Thasos, Byzantion, and Keos in detail, 152-156). The inclusion of Thasos as an example of a "big spender" reveals a problem with their suggestion that available resource was the index of tribute. It must be remembered that Thasos revolted in 465 and its high tribute even in 441 may be due in large part to Athens' desire to seek punitive damages. Indeed, in general Nixon & Price tend to pass over political or military explanations when accounting for differences in the size of tribute payments. For example, in their examination of "big spenders," Nixon & Price consider the question of local minting of coinage; they establish that while local coining does imply local prosperity, not all "big spenders" minted their own coins (e.g. Byzantion, 157-158). What is lost sight of in this discussion is that cities had a variety of reasons for striking coins; C.J. Howgego has shown recently that tribute payment and economic exigencies in general ought not to be considered the only reasons for a city to mint its own coins; "profit, pride and politics" were also factors ("Why did Ancient States strike Coins?", NC 150  25).
Turning to the "little spenders" Nixon & Price offer mostly negative conclusions: ancient references to population size in cities paying less than a talent are unreliable; modern census figures ought not to be used for comparative purposes because they may well bear no relation to ancient population figures; "little spenders" were not necessarily self-sufficient (159-162). On this last point Nixon & Price make an important observation: even idealized communities such as the one envisioned by Aristotle at Politics 1327a18 are not self-sufficient (163). They summarize their findings at the end of their paper: "study of the Athenian tribute lists offers the basis for a rather different picture [than one of Aristotelian self-sufficiency]: the diversity of wealth in the Aegean, the consequent interconnection between states, and the range of sizes and resources of Greek cities" (166). This view of a "diversity of wealth" is one that Rackham would no doubt support.
An appendix of the amounts paid in 441 follows (166-170).
In an excellent and eye-opening study, "Private Space and the Greek City," Michael Jameson challenges a number of preconceived notions about the ancient Greek house. He begins his paper with an important claim: "in social terms, the distinction between town and country, residence and cultivated land, may be less significant than that between private and public" (171: cf. Murray on Durkheim, 5). Noting the absence of "an explicit description of a Greek house" in our sources (171), Jameson explains that his paper is based on both literary and physical evidence. He sets out to dismantle the idea that the Greek house was differentiated into male and female quarters, and asserts that there was instead only one room set aside for the exclusive use of men, the so-called andron (172). But before examining the house in detail Jameson defines what he means by "private space": "the agricultural fields in the territory of the polis and the houses in compact settlements" (172). On this last point Jameson notes that even when they did not have to, the ancient Greeks "preferred to live in ... nucleated settlements" and not spread out (173: cf. Snodgrass on the Greek preference for living in towns and villages, 126). As for agricultural plots, they probably began as "single, unitary properties" which were then broken up over time (173), a scheme supported by property division in new settlements (175). Older towns or the older parts of evolving settlements "grew haphazardly" around natural limits while newer towns were planned in blocks (177).
Regarding the house itself, Jameson notes in the first place that the basic configuration of a Greek house was a single-floor dwelling centered on a central court which was accessible "directly from the street or by way of a passage" (179). It was designed to insure privacy (183, citing Lysias 3.6 and Plutarch Mor. 516E), and the rooms were meant to be multifunctional (184), although specialized workrooms are not unknown (at Halieis there are rooms designed for oil presses, 185, and some men obviously turned their houses into businesses, 185). But, as Jameson points out, while only some of the men of the oikos worked in the house, all of the women did (186). Indeed they could work almost anywhere in the house and courtyard (186). The exception was of course the andron, "the most distinctive room in the Greek house" (188). The andron was the one room that males outside of the oikos could enter; women of citizen birth were not permitted to enter, although exceptions probably were made if the household had no slaves, and young children may have been allowed in as well. Jameson explains that the andron functioned primarily not as a room for exclusively male parties (190), but rather as a place where family business was conducted between men of the oikos and men from other households (191). For Jameson the difference between male and female space in the Greek house is more "conceptual and behavioural" than physical (192). Regarding the hearth, Jameson offers more startling and valuable conclusions: the Greek house had no separate room for the hearth (it was in all likelihood portable), there are few references to the hearth in written sources, and while built-in hearths are rare in archaeological sites, "no circular hearths ... are known for any classical house" (193). Because of Jameson's study, ancient historians will have to be much more careful when discussing the physical layout of the Greek house, and (more importantly) the place of the oikos in the community.
The Institutions of the City
Pauline Schmitt-Pantel's essay, "Collective Activities and the Political in the Greek City," is very much in sympathy with the views found in Murray's introduction. She argues that "patterns of behaviour" help to reveal a structural correspondence between a wide range of group activities within the polis (199 and 211). Like Murray she adopts a modified Durkheimian view (see also Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood's paper, "What is Polis Religion?"), asserting on the one hand that "religion is present in all the different levels of social life," but at the same time advancing "the political" as the social structure which is duplicated in all collective activities -- "hunting, athletic training, and banquets" (199-200).
Schmitt-Pantel constructs a schematic overview of the evolution of these activities from the archaic to the classical polis and the polis of the fourth century. In the archaic city she believes that all "communal practices" were equally significant and that participation in the assembly and in battle were not regarded (as they were later) as more important. The purpose of these collective activities was to provide equal access to a shared experience which in turn defined who was a citizen; in other words, these collective activities corresponded exactly with "the political" (201: cf. d'Agostino 81, on political power and gentilicial structure). Naturally only the aristocracy participated in these practices and accordingly only among the aristoi was equality enjoyed (202). According to Schmitt-Pantel, with the development of "new social strata" and the consequent pressure to increase access to citizenship, the collective activities were modified and codified in different ways in the various poleis. At Sparta, Schmitt-Pantel argues, the aristocratic banquet (with which she is primarily concerned, 200 with n.3) was frozen in time as the syssition, presumably reflecting the narrow definition of full citizen found in that city. At Athens, along with the increase in the number of citizens, the collective activities were "specialized" and only some retained political significance: "only certain collective activities -- the assemblies, the law-courts, the magistracies -- express common sovereignty and the access to arche ... at Athens" (203).
While her description of the different evolution of collective activity at Sparta and Athens is suggestive, it remains a description only; Schmitt-Pantel does not provide an explanation for why the changes in communal practice took place, indeed even benchmark dates are generally wanting. Where Schmitt-Pantel is more informative and convincing is on the survival in democratic polities of archaic aristocratic collective activities, chief among them cult activity. She identifies four areas of group activity where the communal activity of the archaic polis is preserved: (1) official or semi-official subdivisions of the polis (deme, tribe, phratry: cf. Osborne's views on the deme, treated below), (2) religious cult, (3) age-classes, and (4) associations of friends (205: Schmitt-Pantel's footnote on the andron as the point of mediation between public and private, 205-206 n. 21, dovetails nicely with Jameson's views). All of these groups help to introduce young men to the life of the citizen (cf. Osborne, 26 7), are the places which reflect the social order with even greater clarity than the political center, and in general help create "the cohesion of the group" (205-206). Towards the end of her essay Schmitt-Pantel draws a telling contrast between the role of collective activity in the fifth and fourth century polis. In the fifth, she claims, collective activities "define a city without constituting its political requirements" (208); in the fourth century (as seen primarily in the work of Aristotle), collective activities no longer offer participation in political power, "they are simply one aspect of the way of life" (210). This change takes place, Schmitt-Pantel claims, because the areas of collective activity or the commonalities (koinoniai) are no longer seen as constituents of the power structure of the polis but as subordinate to the koinonia politike or politeia, implying thereby that the power structure of the polis is altogether different from the groups of communal activity.
In his monumental, learned, and controversial essay, "The Political Powers of the People's Court in Fourth-Century Athens," Mogens Herman Hansen continues his advocacy of a popular court at Athens (dikasterion) which is sharply distinct from the demos: as Hansen himself puts it, the dikasteria formed "an independent body of government and not just 'judicial committees of the ekklesia' or 'the demos in its judicial capacity'" (222). In the first section of his paper Hansen redeploys his argument concerning the terminology of the People's Court, and takes up earlier criticisms of his central thesis. In particular Hansen is concerned with the meaning of the term "representation": while the assembly cannot be said to represent the demos because it is the demos, the dikasterion can because in some sense it is not the demos. The suggestion here is that a representative group must be distinct from the entity which it represents (221-222). Indeed for Hansen representation means "to act or stand for others" (22 1). While Hansen's proofs for the separation of the dikasteria from the demos in the fourth century seem almost universally stronger than the counter-arguments of his critics, his assertion that "a dikasterion ... was never thought of as an embodiment of the demos" (221) seems too strong. Two passages cited by M. Ostwald (Arist. Vesp. 590-1, Lysias 13.35: From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law, 34 n.131) recommend caution when talking about the dikasteria of the late fifth and very early fourth centuries. In fact, in other, non-legal contexts in the late fifth century, the Athenians seem not to have difficulty with the concept that the entire community could be instanced even in a minority of its members: Nicias' plea to his men before the second battle in the Great Harbor is a case in point (Thuc. 7.64.2).
Hansen's demonstration of how the assembly and the dikasteria are different in make-up is very convincing indeed. He shows that because of the lower age limit on service in the courts up to as many as one-third of the men attending the assembly could not be jurors. Other differences: those who were to be jurors had to take an oath, whereas those attending the assembly did not; voting in the assembly took place by show of hands, while the courts used the ballot; argument in the courts tended to be more orderly than that in the assembly; finally, pay for attending the assembly was one drachma, but for the jurymen it was three obols (222-226).
In the next section of his paper Hansen compares the Athenian democracy with the American, arguing for a government marked by separation of powers wherein the dikasteria resemble the American Supreme Court (228-229). He recommends (230) that in future treatments of the Athenian democracy of the fourth century more attention should be paid to the ekklesia and dikasteria (the two chief arms of government), and less to the boule and strategoi (the equivalents of the executive branch). Having considered the role of dikasteria in the settlement of private suits (231-233, a section that stresses the difference observed by the Greeks between public and private: cf. the chapters by David Lewis, "Public Property in the City," and Jameson), Hansen turns his attention to the "political part of the powers exercised by the people's court" (233). He acutely observes that much of their business must have been taken up with the euthynai and dokimasiai of the 1400 magistrates and 1000 councillors (incoming + outgoing). In addition to the review of magistrates, there would also have been of course a number of actions brought as eisangeliai or graphai paranomon (235-239). Considering the graphe paranomon in particular, Hansen notes that in all likelihood the 135 instances of the Supreme Court's judicial review of law from 1803-1986 would have been equalled at Athens in less than two decades (239). This staggering calculation certainly encourages endorsement of his general claim that the dikasteria formed a significant and separate force in Athenian government: note Demosthenes at the end of Against Meidias: OI( A)EI\ DIKA/ZONTES I)SXUROI\ KAI\ KU/RIOI TW=N E)N TH=| PO/LEI PA/NTWN (21.223; see Hansen 241 n.124). Hansen, in this brilliant and controversial paper, has provided much food for thought.
Robin Osborne, in "The Demos and its Divisions in Classical Athens," offers an ambitious and detailed study of the deme as a miniature polis from a perspective shared by Schmitt-Pantel and (to a lesser degree) Murray. His thesis, already advanced in a book-length monograph, is an important one. The second section of his paper, dealing with the deme Rhamnous, is especially good (277-285); Osborne has collected a valuable dossier of inscriptions dealing with Rhamnous which ancient historians will no doubt find extremely useful when examining life in an attic deme, even if it was atypical (278). But while there are good observations to be found in Osborne's paper, as well as an admirable collection of inscriptions dealing in general with deme government, it has serious flaws. A problematic observation at the beginning of the paper is that, for the most part, "the Athenian population displayed a remarkable solidarity, breached only under severe outside pressure in conditions of defeat at war" (266). While Osborne is right to stress the relative stability of internal affairs at Athens in the classical period, his observation undervalues the Athenians' reaction to the traumatic and bloody tyranny of the Thirty: this period of violence shattered Athenian solidarity (see e.g. B. Strauss, Athens after the Peloponnesian War, 54-55, on the widespread effects of the Thirty), and deeply scarred it, haunting the Athenian imagination for years (see R. Garner, Law and Society in Classical Athens, 133, on the Thirty as a topos for lawlessness). Osborne's general point, that the deme imitates the central government to a high degree, is a good one. But even with this issue there are problems. One of the chief proofs he uses to demonstrate the parallel structure of the central administration and the deme is the similarity in the titulature of magistrates (269-271). While this argument seems compelling, a glance at the analytical indices of Nicholas Jones' book, Public Organization in Ancient Greece (Philadelphia, 1987), suggests that at least some of the terms Osborne isolates as found in both the central government and deme at Athens (tamias, grammateus, keryx, hieropoios) are simply the words that are commonly used in Greek to describe the officers of government and cult.
A final problem. Many of the inscriptions Osborne draws upon to establish his point have dates that fall after the death of Alexander (the end of the period covered by the collection); indeed, inspection of Osborne's Appendix A, the useful dossier of inscriptions recording decisions made at Rhamnous (287-289), shows that of the 52 texts cited, only 8 (or perhaps 9) fall within the chronological scope of the book. The later date of much of the evidence Osborne cites poses both specific and general problems for his thesis. An example of a specific problem concerns inscription no. 31 from his collection of decisions from Rhamnous. Osborne makes a great deal out of the fact that in this decree the deme is clearly acting as a corporate body when voting honors for a certain Dikaiarchos (280). What he does not stress sufficiently (even though he translates the text in Appendix B, 291-292) is that since Rhamnous was at this time occupied by the Macedonians under Demetrius II (cf. E. Will, Histoire politique du monde hellenistique I 343-347), whatever behavior the Rhamnousians may seem to exhibit on their own accord may in fact be due to the influence of a coercive foreign power; if that is the case, what use is the inscription then in illustrating genuine local, Rhamnousian collective behavior? The later date of much of Osborne's material presents general difficulties as well. At one point in his paper (276) he suggests that it is difficult to determine which way the imitation of collective activity went, either from the central administration to the deme or the other way around. The later date of the evidence suggests that the direction of influence is from center to deme; it may be explained by the fact that for the average Athenian, as his interest shifted from the center, his deme correspondingly became more important for the articulation of his political concerns and ambitions. It is noteworthy that in this connection Whitehead has argued that deme activity increased from 360 onwards (Demes of Attica 358- 360). What is missed in Osborne's treatment is precisely an explanation for this apparent increase in deme activity. That there is not is unfortunate, since the essay contains valuable insights on the political life of the Attic deme and its relation to the city of Athens.
Emily Kearns contributes one of the most thought-provoking papers of the collection, "Saving the City." She examines patterns in the stories of the remarkable salvations of Greek cities and discovers important structures of thought which in turn help to illuminate the nature of what is thought to comprise the city and what is thought to be "outside" or on the margin. The marginal groups are made up of "women, children, slaves, and foreigners" (323-324).
At the beginning of her paper Kearns identifies types of salvation which are straightforward and plausible (soldiers, gods who intervene directly, 325), and deliverance which is complex and unexpected (Kearns' opening instance, the offering up of the snake-child-god Sosipolis [Pausanias 6.20.4-5], is a good example). The second type of soteria is the one which interests Kearns, when it "comes from a highly improbable method and source" (326). What Kearns finds particularly significant is the way that the act of saving the city moves the improbable agent of salvation from the margins to the center of the polis. Kearns first looks at the probable: local heroes who protect but also can be won over to the side of the enemy; the related issue of finding and recovering the bones of heroes; the death of the king (e.g. Kodros). In general the "saviour-from-within" type is filled by famous generals, heroes, and tutelary deities (332). But even where the agent for salvation seems probable Kearns shows that there can be an element of improbability: when Kodros dies it is not in battle but "in an undignified skirmish" where he is in disguise and killed almost as a victim of a sacrifice (328-329). This point leads Kearns naturally on to the topic of the unlikely saviour, or the "saviour-from-without." One example from this category is Aglauros, daughter of Kekrops. Her suicide saves her city, and Kearns draws out the paradoxical nature of her saving of Athens by contrasting her plight with the achievement of the ephebes for whom she is especially important: "the mode of deliverance is entirely different, the indirect, implausible suicide versus the direct, likely method of hacking the enemy to pieces; the area of action is different, the heart of the city as opposed to its borders; and of course the sex is different" (330). The survey of "heroes-from-without" includes foreign protector-heroes (Oedipus, Eurystheus) and the native pharmakos. (Kearns' explanation for the rarity of stories featuring slave-saviours -- that it was due to a sensitivity for realism -- does not seem satisfactory, for the other methods of salvation are in the end equally unlikely, 335.)
For Kearns the most important category of unlikely saviours is women, who combine the city's center and its margin. An example of this duality is the sacrifice of the king's daughter: in Kearns' understanding this story-pattern offers both the extreme centrality of the king and the marginality of the female victim (337). Indeed, Kearns asserts, virgins have several qualities which make them ideal candidates for being unlikely saviours through death: they are "whole for sacrifice," do not participate at all in the life of the polis (i.e. they have not produced children of their own, the one civic contribution a woman can make), and they are the most vulnerable element in the city and are consequently almost a liability (337). Associated with the sacrifice of virgins, and "rather closer to historical reality" (338) are stories which concern women who actually defend the city in combat: the women on the rooftops at Corcyra (Thuc. 3.74.1) and Telesilla and the women of Argos are cited (Plutarch Mor. 245D-E , Pausanias 2.20.8). As the Thucydides example amply demonstrates, the women fight beyond their nature (=unlikely and therefore an outside saviour) and yet fight from their proper place, the home (the ultimate place "within" the city). It would have been informative if Kearns had commented at this point on the motif of men who dress as women and save the city (a point she only alludes to elsewhere, on ephebes and "transsexuality," 330): see for example the Macedonian slaughter of Persian emissaries, Hdt. 5.20, and the murder of the Spartan collaborators at Thebes, Xenophon Hellenica 5.4.5-6, Plutarch Mor. 596D and Pelopidas 11.1-2. The upshot of Kearns' paper is that in the Greek imagination, when a city needed to be saved, extraordinary agents from outside the polis were needed; women, being marginal members who also have something of a claim on membership in the polis, are frequently the saviours. But, while these stories were popular, they only reaffirm the social ordering of what, or rather who, constituted the city, and who did not.
The Decline of the City
The final essay in the collection, W.G. Runciman's "Doomed to Extinction: The Polis as an Evolutionary Dead-End," is insightful, arresting, and difficult. With it the editors return us to Purcell's contribution at the beginning, for Runciman, a comparative sociologist, is concerned with why, in the context of the entire Mediterranean basin, the Greek polis did not fare as well as Rome or (later) Venice (see esp. Purcell, 58): as Runciman formulates the problem, by the fourth century BC, "the Greek poleis had ... shown themselves unable to make the evolutionary modifications necessary for their survival as independent societies of a distinctive common type" (350).
According to Runciman, the major reason why the poleis did not flourish as thriving, independent communities was that they were unable to achieve "sustained economic growth." This inability was due not to the fact the Greeks had a low estimation of trade and profit (not all of them though; Xenophon was an exception, 351), but because their "mode of production prevented them from seeing that profit (unlike balance of payments) is not zero-sum" (351). In other words, making a profit was as important to the Greeks as anyone else, but they were not able to grasp the idea of "productive growth" or growth that involved nurturing one's own wealth to garner yet more profit (353). In such a world, Runciman explains, a polis only survives through augmentation, and hence there arose an acute need for mercenaries -- an old argument.
For Runciman, as the polis became more dependent on mercenary armies, and consequently less able to defend itself with its own citizenry, the ideology of the city-state became more rigid. This description is overly schematic: if Purcell is to be believed (57ff.), the Greeks hardened their ideology regarding civic life at least once before, and one suspects that there was never a period when what the Greeks thought about government was not parochial in the extreme. In the classical period, Runciman argues, the Greeks competed for increasingly "constrained" resources and developed in the process "maladaptive responses" to the problems of economic growth (355). According to Runciman, all Greek cities, whether democratic or oligarchic, failed to make the changes necessary for continued independence (356). Citing the example of two other city-states (Rome and Venice), Runciman claims that the failure of the Greek polis was not due to some inherent weakness in the city-state (357). Rather, he argues, the Greek city-states did not adapt their institutions to meet the changing conditions of their world. Unlike the Greek poleis, early Rome managed to absorb the resources of other states, thanks to "the strength of vertical ties between patrons and clients; the extension of citizenship to selected adult males in other Italian territories; and the frequent manumission of slaves" (357). In anticipation of those who might object that it was "purely a contingent matter" that the Greek city-states did not succeed, Runciman asserts that his paradigmatic poleis, Athens and Sparta, failed "for reasons not of historical mischance but as a direct consequence of the character of their institutions" (360). The Greek polis was "far too democratic," even the oligarchic ones, to allow an elite to form which would have concentrated power at the top and driven the state to be more aggressive and imaginative in competing for the resources of the Mediterranean.
The great strength of Runciman's essay is that it correctly stresses the importance of ideological as well as economic and political considerations in explaining the failure of the Greek polis (366). But, as a final note, one cannot help wondering whether the fragile system of interconnected poleis which reflected and thrived on the Greek agonistic spirit would have survived if the Greek cities followed Runciman's prescriptions for success. Would not one city have emerged triumphant in the Balkan peninsula?
It ought to be remembered that Rome succeeded in meeting the challenges of the Mediterranean only after it became the leading state of the Italian peninsula, removing potential rival cities along the way. While the Greek cities may have failed in part because of their intense rivalries, they would not have been true poleis without them.
The Greek City is an excellent collection of essays. Readers will encounter new material here, as well as familiar topics presented in new ways. Additionally they will find themselves flipping back through the book, tracing the many dialogues which connect paper to paper -- perhaps the greatest achievement of any collection. The work is of uniformly high quality, and even where the papers do not encourage agreement, they are nonetheless so thoughtfully presented that much profit is to be derived from them.
The greatest strength of The Greek City is its variety of approach, inasmuch as the book constantly forces the reader to rethink what is a polis. Is it a physical description or the identification of a system of resource management? Is the polis-structure only to be found in a unitary and central whole, or is it reduplicated in miniature throughout its social infrastructure? What kind of polis do we see when we look at its public institutions, and how does that view match up with the polis when viewed as a nucleated settlement of private homes? In the end the most important lesson of The Greek City may well be that the polis offers a number of fruitful avenues of approach, and it is only those which seek exclusivity that are bound not to capture the many facets of the ancient Greek city.