Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.06.35

Patrice Brun, Impérialisme et démocratie à Athènes. Inscriptions de l'époque classique.   Paris:  Armand Colin, 2005.  Pp. 350.  ISBN 2-200-26928-5.  €30.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Filippo Canali De Rossi, Liceo Classico "Dante", Roma (
Word count: 1126 words

This book is a collection of translated Greek inscriptions concerning Athens and Attica. Its target are presumably French-speaking students of history who do not read ancient Greek. It focuses on the Classical period (fifth and fourth century BC), and it is subdivided into eleven chapters, of which the first six follow the chronology of Athens' main historical events, while the second half of the book is devoted to more general topics such as "political life" (chapter 7), "finance, accounts and inventories" (chapter 8), "religious life" (chapter 9), "phratries, families, tribes and demes" (chapter 10), "citizens, metics and slaves" (chapter 11). There are in all 161 entries, some of them including more than one inscription. Along with a few maps, only a very limited number of illustrations is provided.

Each entry is identified by a number and a heading in black type, followed by a chronological indication. The lemma provides the reader with a brief description of the material evidence for the document and, if available, a reference to a photograph. The edition that the author used for translation is given first, followed by alternative editions. A translation follows that does not indicate lacunae in the original text or editorial supplements: this might be misleading in some cases, and it does not allow the historian to place complete reliance on the translation. one must look to the useful commentary for information about problems in the text. Both translation and commentary are occasionally doubled by footnotes. The whole entry is closed by a second bibliographical lemma, with the indication of ancient sources relevant to the interpretation, as well as references for further study.

After a short introduction on the peculiarities of Attic epigraphy and numbering, the author declares the guidelines that inspired his collection, for example the choice not to build a critical apparatus of the text. Chapter I, dealing with the age of the Persian Wars, comprises only four entries, including the 'Decree of Themistocles', about whose authenticity the author is ultimately skeptical. Chapter II spans over the years of the Delian League (478-431 BC): most of the documents presented here concern Athens' relations to her allies, including documents such as the treaties with the towns of Egesta and Leontini in Sicily (nn. 7, 11), and a summary of the Athenian Tribute Lists (n. 8). Chapter III is devoted to the years of the Peloponnesian War (431-403 BC): relevant issues of the documents presented here are the Athenian strategy to prevent the defection of allies (nn. 24-32) and the measures publicly taken by the city to keep on financing the war (nn. 17, 18, 20).

Chapter IV surveys the epigraphic production during the period of recovery from defeat in the Peloponnesian War (403-378 BC): Athenian foreign policy is here enlightened by a number of decrees, mainly concerning relations with the neighboring Boeotians (nn. 34, 43) and the former allies in the Aegean (nn. 33, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45), but also extending to partners in the remote West (n. 37, Dionysius of Syracuse) and East (n. 42, Straton, king of Phoenician Sidon). The reconstitution of the Naval League is the main subject of chapter V, spanning over the years from 377 to 338 BC: here too the history of Athenian diplomatic relations is abundantly documented in the inscriptions, generally in the form of public decrees: not only a whole system of alliances is envisioned (n. 46), but also friendly relations to individual communities are reestablished, either publicly (Chalcis [n. 47, 79], Corcyra [nn. 48-49], Mytilene [nn. 51, 75], the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse [n. 52, see 37]), or to single representatives, e.g. in the form of proxeny (Coroibos of Sparta [n. 52], Pythodoros of Delos [n. 54], Astykrates of Delphi [n. 55], Menelaos of Pelagonia [n. 56] etc.). Chapter VI is the last chapter arranged according to chronology and deals with Athenian policy against Macedonia (338-317 BC). Under a single entry (n. 88) are gathered six decrees honoring foreign individuals who gave assistance to Athens during the Lamian War.

The first chapter of the thematic section is also markedly historical in content, but deals with internal rather than with external politics. Documents presented in this chapter include an entry devoted to ostraka (n. 91: exceptionally, a sufficient number of illustrations is here provided), and a number of laws (n. 93, a decree concerning the re-engraving of the laws of Draco; n. 94, a law, issued by the nomothetai, dealing with the forgery of Athenian currency; n. 95, the recently discovered grain tax law; n. 100, a law concerning the reconstruction of the Long Walls in 337/6 BC etc.). A large number of civic decrees in also included. The following chapter is devoted to financial matters, a topic richly documented in Attic epigraphy: relevant items here are the account of expenses concerning the building of the statue of Athena (n. 112) and of the Parthenon (n. 115), those of military expeditions (nn. 113, 116), and the administration of sacred funds (nn. 117-119) or sanctuaries (nn. 120).

Chapter 9 specifically documents aspects of civic life pertaining to religion: the building of a temple (n. 123) or of a bridge leading to a temple (n. 128), the surveillance of a sanctuary (n. 124), the public consultation of oracles (n. 131), the implantation of foreign cults on the soil of Attica (nn. 132, 134), the organization of festivals (nn. 129-133). Chapter 10 explores civic life at the level of smaller unities, that is tribes (n. 147), demes (nn. 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149), phratries (n. 139), gene or families (n. 141, possibly 144) as documented in their own decrees. In the last chapter evidence is offered to ascertain the role played in the civic community by different social classes, that is citizens, metics and slaves.

The role of citizens is exemplified through participation and death in war (n. 150; also as cavalrymen, n. 151), competition in Panhellenic games (n. 152), sponsoring of dramatic festivals (n. 153); in spite of their privileges, when found guilty of a trespass (e.g. of a religious character), citizens were in danger of losing all of their property (n. 154). In contrast, metics who served their adoptive community in times of calamity (e.g. n. 156) could indeed get a reward in terms of fiscal equity (isotelia) or, as a real exception, by the grant of citizenship (n. 155, but see n. 161). Metics usually practiced a very modest profession (nn. 155, 159), and it is no surprise that some of them complained to their Athenian sponsor for better employment (n. 157), as much as slaves aimed for emancipation (n. 160).

This book is also provided with an epigraphic register, a glossary, analytical indexes and a bibliography. Misprints occur very rarely.1


1.   I was able to note only one on p. 200, ll. 12-13, where the word 'drachmes' is faultily repeated twice.

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