Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.09.31

Philippe Gauthier, Études d'histoire et d'institutions grecques: choix d'écrits (édité et indexé par Denis Rousset). École pratique des hautes études, sciences historiques et philologiques - III. Hautes études du monde gréco-romain, 47.   Genève:  Librairie Droz, 2011.  Pp. viii, 755.  ISBN 9782600013642.  $120.00.  

Reviewed by Hans-Ulrich Wiemer, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

In 1960 Philippe Gauthier, then aged 25, published his first article on Greek history; to this day more than 200 books, chapters, articles and reviews have followed. His thèse de doctorat, Symbola. Les étrangers et la justice dans les cités grecques, appeared as a book in 1972 and quickly established his reputation as a leading expert on the history and institutions of Greek city-states. After Un commentaire historique des Poroi de Xenophon (1976) came his second major monograph on the history of the polis as a political community: Les cités grecques et leurs bienfaiteurs: IVe-Ier siècle avant J.-C. (1985). The series went on with two monographs designed as an exhaustive commentary on inscriptions: Nouvelles inscriptions de Sardes II (1989) and (with Miltiades Hatzopoulos) La loi gymnasiarchique de Beroia (1993). After the death of his academic teacher Louis Robert, Gauthier took on the task of directing the "Bulletin épigraphique" (in 1987) and performed it until 2005; during these 18 years he also wrote substantial parts of this indispensable annual report on Greek epigraphy.

The book under review, edited by Gauthier’s pupil Denis Rousset, comprises only a fraction of the 217 titles that are listed in the bibliography appended: 26 articles and book chapters published between 1974 and 2003 that were selected in consultation with Gauthier himself. The main criterion for inclusion was historical significance; but accessability was also taken into consideration. Articles treating constitutional details or studying the text of particular inscriptions have thus been excluded, as have been most (but not all) of the reviews.1 The articles selected have been re-set, but the content and wording remains unchanged apart from occasional corrections, specifications or additions inserted within the text (in square brackets) or a bibliographical note appended at the end that refers the reader to publications by Gauthier on related topics that could not be included in this collection. A detailed index leads the reader to the sources cited and Greek terms discussed in the articles brought together in this volume; in addition, an "index analytique" serves as a guide to the topics touched upon in all of Gauthier’s scholarly writings.

The 26 articles selected are grouped together under five headings (for the full titles see the list at the end of this review): The first group, entitled "Citoyens et non-citoyens", begins with two articles that bring out the peculiarity of Greek citizenship by comparing it to Roman civitas (nos. 1, 2): while in Greek city-states being a citizen meant the right to participation in public affairs, in Republican Rome citizenship soon became a means of integrating local elites that had no chance or wish effectively to participate in the decision-making process in Rome. Also reprinted is a detailed and constructive review of Michael Osborne’s study of the way Athenian citizenship was acquired by foreigners (no. 3), and a stimulating paper (no. 4) on the original meaning and development of the status denoted by the terms metoikoi, perioikoi and paroikoi; according to Gauthier the latter status was characteristic of "colonial" situations where Greeks were settled as a privileged class among ethnic groups of inferior status. The second section is devoted to judicial institutions, focusing on aspects of that topic that had either not been within the compass of Gauthier’s thèse – the active role of kings in promoting the institution of foreign judges (no. 6) – or can now be described more precisely as new evidence provides us with information hitherto unavailable – the workings of foreign judges commissioned on the basis of conventions agreed upon between city-states (no. 7). Also reprinted is a long review-essay that offers a critical assessment of Benedetto Bravo’s important study of the right of reprisal and other forms of private justice in the Greek world (no. 6). Economy and finance are the common subject of the articles grouped together in the third section. The article on Greek coin legends (no. 8) has become required reading for anyone trying to make sense of these laconic pronouncements. Another classic is the study that by explaining a previously misunderstood passage in the Athenaion politeia opens up the way to a new understanding of how the grain market in Classical Athens actually worked (no. 9). To the objections raised by Eckart Schütrumpf against Gauthier’s interpretation of Xenophon’s reform projects in the Poroi (no. 10), Gauthier responds in a characteristically matter-of-fact way by first circumscribing the area of dissent, then conceding some of his critic’s points and finally integrating them into a more nuanced picture of Xenophon’s ideas. An article (no. 11) that gives a cogent explanation of a privilege mentioned in inscriptions from Priene and some other city-states – ateleia tou somatos does not mean exemption from military service, but from taxes levied on the person – concludes this section.

The core of the collection is formed by the five articles placed under the heading "Régimes politiques", that can, perhaps, be translated as forms of government. The section begins with a study of the role of monarchy in Greek history (no. 12), arguing that the main difference between Hellenistic monarchies and their predecessors was the invention of an ideology of kingship and the adaptation of this ideology by the city-states that had to cope with kings. In two major articles (nos. 14, 15) Gauthier sets out his ideas on how the history of Greek city-states in the Hellenistic period can and should be studied, making a convincing case for seeing the large majority of them as democracies of a moderate type that continued to function as such well into the second century BC at least. In this view, the rise of Rome to become the sole ruler of the Eastern Mediterranean is the main, if indirect cause of the development that from the second century onwards led to popular rule being replaced by forms of goverment where local notables effectively controlled the political process. Gauthier thus in principle endorses Paul Veyne’s model of the political culture of the post-Classical Polis, but at the same time limits its applicability to a much shorter span of time than Veyne had thought. While these two articles plead their cause without mentioning opponents by name, the article on large and small cities (no. 13) is noticeable as the only text to have a polemical ring. Moses Finley himself is here taken to task for excluding the Hellenistic period from his vision of Greek history and for his corresponding unwillingness to engage with the mostly epigraphical evidence produced by small city-states that never were able to aspire to a hegemonic role in inter-state politics, but precisely for this reason were much more typical for the polis than either Athens or Sparta. A case-study devoted to the political institutions of Hellenistic Delphi (a democracy, as Gauthier demonstrates) rounds off this section (no. 16). The fifth section deals with political assemblies and the gymnasium. Three related articles (nos. 17-19) examine the significance of the so-called quorum required in several city-states for particular types of assemblies and the reasons for introducing payment to those who attended. According to Gauthier, neither quora nor political pay indicate a flagging will to participate, as quora were much lower than average attendance and payment was given only to those who showed up early. This line of argument is followed up by a study showing that in Athens and generally in Hellenistic city-states assemblies were not convened exclusively for the purpose of electing magistrates; the concept of an electoral assembly is a modern construct with no basis in the evidence (no. 20). The last article in this section (no. 21) is again of fundamental importance in showing that contrary to received opinion the gymnasium as a civic institution only came into being in the Hellenistic period.

The sixth and last group of articles, entitled "Honneurs", comprises five recent articles that interpret honorary decrees. The first is about a Late Hellenistic decree of Thessalonike (no. 22), the second treats inscriptions attesting cultic honours for the founder of the Attalid dynasty (no. 23), the three others publish new inscriptions from the two cities named Kolophon with ample commentary on their historical implications (nos. 24-26). Each of these articles is a model of epigraphical method, as Gauthier is able to draw historical conclusions from inconspicuous details by meticulous attention to the standard forms used and the precise meaning of their wording.

The volume here reviewed is an impressive testimony to the intellectual energy of a scholar who over the last 50 years has done so much to elucidate the institutions of the Greek polis. The articles included and many others have made substantial contributions to our knowledge; they bear witness to Gauthier’s profound scholarship, critical acumen and power of historical imagination; he is never content with received opinions that cannot be substantiated by evidence and expresses his ideas with Cartesian clarity; furthermore he is gifted with a enviable ability to visualize the ways in which constitutional rules both expressed and framed political behaviour. Anyone wishing to do serious research on Greek city-states in the Late Classical and Hellenistic period would be well advised to start by reading Gauthier’s books and this collection of articles—all the more so, as most of them also provide exemplary introductions to epigraphical method. Like many others in his generation Gauthier learned the art of using inscriptions as historical evidence from Robert, and he himself taught it to graduate students for more than 20 years while serving as Directeur d’Études at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (from 1975/6 to 2001/2). Although Gauthier never shows off his daunting learning, he does usually take for granted that his readers are familiar with Greek history and epigraphy, and he very rarely repeats what he has written elsewhere. In combining close reading of epigraphical texts with historical interpretation his writings maintain a French tradition of research and teaching that was founded by Maurice Holleaux and Louis Robert and is being continued in Paris to this day. Unlike Robert, however, Gauthier from early on restricted his area of research to the Greek city-states in the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods, staying away from the Imperial period or Late Antiquity. Studying the polis as a political community, Gauthier has little use for historical geography and gives scant attention to the social and cultural dimensions of life in a Greek city-state. Monarchy is considered mainly as a force impinging on city-states; federal states, rural areas and the Hellenistic Orient are almost totally absent from his writings. It is this self-imposed restraint that gives his scholarly work such an extraordinary coherence and unity. Gauthier is a self-effacing writer who will not bother his readers with disquisitions about the theoretical underpinnings of his analyses or with confessions as to the personal motives behind his single-minded effort to understand how Greek city-states functioned in practice. His writings, however, leave little doubt that giving the democratic poleis of the Hellenistic world their rightful place in Greek history has always been a major concern for him; Gauthier never shared the disdain that so many ancient historians have shown for the history of small city-states that adhered to democratic principles of government and managed to run their own affairs without being able to play the big game for hegemony over others.

Table of Contents

Première partie : Citoyens et non-citoyens
No. 1 : «Générosité» romaine et «avarice» grecque. Sur l’octroi du droit de cité (1974), 3-12.
No. 2 : La citoyenneté en Grèce et à Rome : participation et intégration (1981), 13-34.
No. 3 : L’octroi du droit de cité à Athènes (1986), 35-54.
No. 4 : Métèques, périèques et paroikoi : bilan et points d’interrogation (1988), 55-77.
Deuxième partie : Institutions judiciaires
No. 5 : Les saisies licites aux dépens des étrangers dans les cités grecques (1982), 81-112.
No. 6 : Les rois hellénistiques et les juges étrangers : à propos de décrets de Kimôlos et de Laodicée du Lykos (1994), 113-144.
No. 7 : «Symbola» athéniens et tribunaux étrangers à l’époque hellénistique (1999), 145-168.
Troisième partie : Économie et finances
No. 8 : Légendes monétaires (1975), 171-192.
No. 9 : De Lysias à Aristote (Ath. pol., 51, 4). Le commerce du grain à Athènes et les fonctions des sitophylaques (1981), 193-222.
No. 10 : Le programme de Xénophon dans les Poroi (1984), 221-244.
No. 11: Ἀτέλεια τοῦ σώματος (1991), 245-269.
Quatrième partie : Régimes politiques
No. 12 : Histoire grecque et monarchie (1986), 273-294.
No. 13 : Grandes et petits cités : hégémonie et autarcie (1989), 295-314.
No. 14 : Les cités hellénistiques. Épigraphie et histoire des institutions et de régimes politiques (1984), 315- 350.
No. 15 : Les cités hellénistiques (1993), 351-374.
No. 16 : Les institutions politiques de Delphes au IIe siècle a. C. (2000), 375-417.
Cinquième partie : Assemblées et gymnase
No. 17 : Quorum et participation civique dans les démocraties grecques (1990), 421-454.
No. 18 : L’inscription d’Iasos relative à l’ekklesiastikon (I. Iasos 20) (1990), 455-492.
No. 19 : Sur l’institution du misthos de l’assemblée à Athènes (Ath. pol. 41, 3) (1993), 493- 516.
No. 20 : La date de l’élection des magistrats athéniens et l’oracle de Delphes (1998), 517-530.
No. 21 : Notes sur le rôle du gymnase dans les cités hellénistiques (1995), 531-550.
Sixième partie : Honneurs
No. 22 : Le décret de Thessalonique pour Parnassos. L’évergète et la dépense pour sa statue à la basse époque hellénistique (2000), 553-576.
No. 23 : De nouveaux honneurs cultuels pour Philétairos de Pergame : À propos de deux inscriptions récemment publiées (2003), 577-592.
No. 24 : Le décret de Colophon l’Ancienne en l’honneur du Thessalien Asandros et la sympolitie entre les deux Colophon (2003), 593-634.
No. 25 : Deux décrets hellénistiques de Colophon-sur-Mer (2003), 635-660.
No. 26 : Un gymnasiarque honoré à Colophon (2005), 661-673.


1.   For those who know Gauthier as a professional historian only it might come as a surprise to learn that he also wrote from time to time for the liberal journal "Commentaire" (founded by Raymond Aron) on topics ranging from the philosopher Simone Weil to the comics writer Hergé ("The Adventures of Tintin"); some, but by no means all, of these titles are listed in the bibliography.

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