Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.03.14 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.03.14

Alain Duplouy, Roger Brock (ed.), Defining Citizenship in Archaic Greece.   Oxford; New York:  Oxford University Press, 2018.  Pp. xiii, 370.  ISBN 9780198817192.  $105.00.  

Reviewed by J.J. Mulhern, University of Pennsylvania (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book memorializes papers presented at conferences in Leeds (2009) and Paris (2010). One of the editors, Alain Duplouy, begins the book with a review of a century’s work on subjects related to citizenship in Greece, taking issue with Hansen (6-11) and leading up to scholarship associated with the École de Paris, after which he offers a prospectus of the papers (48).

John K. Davies continues the discussion by proposing “to model (52)” the development of all “types of state (55)” in the post-Mycenaean period ranging from monarchies through ethnē and temple-states to the polis (55-56), each developing from units that are “agro-pastoral-fishing” communities with minimum adult populations of “about fifty (56).” Literary examples are the settlement of the Phaeacians in the Odyssey and Ascra in Works and Days. The model has, provisionally, six elements which are described as kinds of “force” or “energy,” for example, that of “the exceptional individual (60),” which Davies offers in the end as a “plausible model (78)” of the emergence and consolidation of the polis-state.

Josine Blok downplays sharing in archai as an index of citizenship in favor of sharing (85) in cult and descent. She summarizes her view: “citizenship, i.e. polis membership, was a status defined by descent, conceived as being a descendant of the original founders of the covenant of the polis with the gods, more precisely as being a legitimate heir to a share of this covenant. This applies equally to men and women, as members of the kin group and as heirs (93).” Further, “Laws consolidated the polis as a human community and perpetuated its covenant with the gods, devolving human and divine property and obligations towards the gods and fellow humans onto future generations (98).” Thus, for Blok, the key elements are cult, descent, and law.

Hans van Wees insists on investigating “both the informal and the formal, legal, institutional aspects of citizenship (105).” He argues that the difference of archaic from classical Athenian citizenship lay “not in greater informality and fluidity [in the archaic period], but on the contrary in stricter legal regulation of military and other obligations for the social and political elite . . . whose significance faded only in the late fifth century with the rise of democratic government (105).” He asks “to what degree was the archaic citizen body a formal juridical ‘order’ with legally enforceable rights and duties, or rather an informal ‘status group’ defined by peer judgement of one’s ‘performance’, with moral but not legal obligations and privileges (143)?” His answer is that the Solonian and perhaps older pentakosiomedimnoi, hippeis, and zeugitai were orders from a military standpoint but that the thētes were less than that, although the thētes were required to serve in general levies along with noncitizens, and they might and did volunteer for service, even as hoplites (135, 137).

Paulin Ismard proposes to study “the ways in which associations were able to take part in the slow elaboration of civic identity in sixth-century Athens (146).” He begins with the law of Solon preserved in the Digest which lists some of the associations of the archaic period. He then turns to Plutarch, who “implies the existence of a law of citizenship (148)” in Solon, while acknowledging that this second law was “very far removed in its form from laws of citizenship of the classical period (149).” Both laws, he suggests, describe “the same historical configuration, that of a very weakly integrated sixth-century city within which there were multiple communitarian affiliations, and where the first political entitlements within the ‘city under construction’ were probably linked to them (151).” After drawing on examples from Herodotus, Plutarch again, and the Politeia of the Athenians, and after referring to “the Solonian definition of citizenship,” Ismard concludes, with regard to Cleisthenes’ reforms, “it was less important to define the notion of ‘citizen’ than to construct communitarian structures which alone could guarantee the rights attached to this evolving citizenship (158).”

In the first paper to focus mainly on Sparta, Marcello Lupi attempts “to reconstruct the civic organization of Sparta during the archaic period” using the Rhetra, Tyrtaeus, Herodotus, Pausanias, and some other sources (174). Looking for authority to Tyrtaeus and Demetrius of Scepsis, he suggests that, during the archaic period, “being a Spartan citizen meant being a member of one of the three tribes and the twenty-seven phratries that made up the city. However, the adoption of rational civic structures would not have been sufficient to create social cohesion if it had not been accompanied by participation in collective rituals whereby the members of the Spartan community, suitably mixed, recognized each other as fellow citizens (178).”

Paul Cartledge follows up on his earlier treatments of Sparta with a cautious piece, observing, despite his title, that “to speak of Spartan citizenship ‘theory’ may perhaps be thought to be pushing the boat out a little too far (179)” but that “Sparta—arguably—invented the citizen ideal in ancient Greece (182).” The Spartan “idea of citizenship” for him connotes “deep membership in a strong corporate body (186).” He finds it “more than debatable whether there is any direct ‘legacy’ of citizenship from ancient Greece to the modern world (188).”

Nick Fisher also regards citizenship as community membership (189) while acknowledging “the murky gloom of inadequate evidence (190).” He considers the intersection of membership with athletic performance, especially “measures cities might choose to foster gymnastics and athletics” to strengthen their members and to gain international prestige at the games. These measures include making athletic skills part of the qualification for citizenship and easing entry into citizen subgroups “for those marked out by athletic prowess or promise (191).” He offers examples from Sparta (191-202), Crete (202-207), and Athens (207-211), and there are treatments as well of Corinth, Argos, Aegina (211-214), and the South Italian and Sicilian cities (214-223). He concludes that “substantial evidence points almost exclusively to the ambitious and wealthy ‘colonial’ cities of Sicily and Southern Italy, and above all to Croton and Syracuse,” for “positive encouragement directed at athletes [to become citizens of one’s own city] (224).”

James Whitley focuses on eating together (“commensality”) to explain how “Greek political communities could make up through participation what they lacked in administration (227)”—that is, how the appropriate sort of commensality “defines citizen as against non-citizen (229).” His example is Crete with its andreia, which offered a different dining arrangement (sitting up) from that of the symposium (reclining), though Whitley contends that “citizenship on Crete would not have been too different from citizenship in other ‘citizen’ (i.e. polis) states on the mainland (246).” He ends by disagreeing with Blok’s view that “citizenship was not an exclusively male preserve” and by arguing that, while, in most parts of archaic Greece, “citizenship is predicated on certain kinds of performance, performance that was essentially masculine, competitive, and agonistic . . . the scope that archaic Crete provided for its citizens for any kind of agonistic display seems to have been highly restricted (247).”

Duplouy’s second contribution recommends “valuing [archaic Greek] citizenship as a performance, rather than as a granted status enshrined in legal criteria (250),” observing that “the concept of performance originates from theatre studies (252).” At the same time, however, he concedes that “even a performative citizen status could also have been supplemented in some cities with more formal criteria of citizenship (254).” His examples of citizenship as performance include horse breeding (“In archaic Chalcis, horse-breeding was thus probably associated with the performance of citizenship [259]”) and luxury (at Sybaris and elsewhere, “luxury and its performance seem to offer a very sound model of archaic citizenship [269]”). Duplouy ends by taking issue with Morris and Ober on middling or mass and elite since “the elite and the ‘common people’ shared the same agonistic mentality (272).”

In preliminary remarks, Maurizio Giangiulio distances himself from “the idea that the history of the archaic polis was defined by the succession of different constitutions, according to the interpretative model of Aristotelian origin which has strongly influenced the ancient and the modern perception of Greek political history.” He observes, “Categories such as ‘statehood’, ‘constitution’, ‘citizenship’, ‘political franchises’ are not attuned—to say the least—to the nature of political life in the archaic age (276).” He argues that the numbered political bodies in the archaic period typically were “the whole community of the citizens (279).” “Before becoming a legal status,” he writes,” “citizenship was a distinguished behaviour (292).” In considering evidence for the Thousands of Colophon (Xenophanes), Aeolian Cyme (Heraclides Lembus), Croton, Locri, Rhegium, and Locrian Opus (various sources) as well as for the Six Hundred of Massalia, he proposes that these “numbered political bodies . . . should be seen much more as an integral part of the process by which a notion of citizenship took shape than of the history of the Greek oligarchical regimes (293).”

In concluding, Roger Brock notes by way of retrospect “the sheer range and diversity of criteria for citizenship that were current in the archaic period (295)” and observes that “the diversity of the studies presented” in the book “calls into question both the usefulness of the term ‘citizenship’ in relation to the archaic period and how archaic arrangements are to be related to citizenship in the classical period (296),” while conceding that “the language of ‘citizenship’ might be the appropriate terminology (297).”

There is much material in this collection which will repay close study. Organizing the material around a notion of citizenship is challenging, since there is little evidence that the archaic Greeks had a clear concept of citizenship or a word for it, presumably an abstract noun, even if they did have ethnics (Athēnaios, Korinthios 84). Hence the contributors fall back on “might be” and so on. Implicitly acknowledging the lack of evidence by using ‘membership’ in place of ‘citizenship’, which several contributors do, could be a step in the right direction given additional linguistic evidence. “Defining” in the title is ambiguous: while it might mean either what the archaic Greeks did or what the authors do, it is used in this book mainly for the way the contributors express themselves rather than for anything attributable to the archaic Greeks.

Readers will find some errors in presentation—for example, a word missing (228), a disagreement in number (253), items mentioned in text (Mitford and Gillies, 276) but omitted from the still extensive and helpful bibliography, Thirlwall’s name misspelled twice on this same page (but correct in the notes and bibliography), an extra letter (278), an extra word (287).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements, v
Contents, vii
List of Figures and Tables, ix
List of Abbreviations, xi
List of Contributors, xiii
Chapter 1 – “Pathways to Archaic Citizenship,” by Alain Duplouy, 1-49
Chapter 2 – “State Formation in Early Iron Age Greece: The Operative Forces,” by John K. Davies, 51-78
Chapter 3 – “Retracing Steps: Finding Ways into Archaic Greek Citizenship,” by Josine Blok, 79-101
Chapter 4 – “Citizens and Soldiers in Archaic Athens,” by Hans van Wees, 103-143
Chapter 5 – “Associations and Citizenship in Attica from Solon to Cleisthenes,” by Paulin Ismard, 145-159
Chapter 6 – “Citizenship and Civic Subdivisions: The Case of Sparta,” byMarcello Lupi, 161-178
Chapter 7 – “The Spartan Contribution to Greek Citizenship Theory By Paul Cartledge, 179-188
Chapter 8 – “Athletics and Citizenship,” by Nick Fisher, 189-225
Chapter 9 – “Citizenship and Commensality in Archaic Crete: Searching for the Andreion,” by James Whitley, 227-248
Chapter 10 – “Citizenship as Performance” by Alain Duplouy, 249-274
Chapter 11 – “Oligarchies of ‘Fixed Number’ or Citizen Bodies in the Making? ” By Maurizio Giangiulio, 275-293
Chapter 12 – “Conclusion: Taking Stock and Looking Backward,” by Roger Brock, 295-304
Bibliography, 305-350
Index Locorum, 351-361
General Index, 362-370
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