BMCR 2000.12.06

Further Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis. Historia Einzelschriften 138, CPCPapers 5

, Further studies in the ancient Greek polis. Papers from the Copenhagen Polis Centre ; 5. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 2000. 262 pages : maps ; 24 cm.. ISBN 3515076077. DM 84.

Further Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis is the fifth volume in the series of Papers from the Copenhagen Polis Centre, which monographs, along with six volumes of CPCActs, have served to distribute the continuing conclusions arrived at by the Centre. The reader is expected to know the purpose of these works, as this volume lacks any kind of prefatory explanation for its existence and leaps immediately into the twelve essays of which it is comprised. The reader discovers that the book is actually two works. The seven initial essays treat specific regions within Hellas, often dealing with issues of ethnicity as well as politics and frequently making inferences about the larger Greek world. Although they lack a closely unified theme, they are not without individual merit. The five concluding papers focus on the use of the term polis in diverse authors to determine its exact meaning to those authors. All of the essays are carefully reasoned from primary evidence with clearly understandable and often compelling results.

The first essay is Albert Schachter’s “Greek Deities: Local and Panhellenic Identities” [pp.9-17]. Schachter attempts to answer the question of why the Greek religious system was not as particular as other aspects of society — that is, why there were so many Panhellenic deities. In using the evidence from Thebes as a case study, he determines that it is likely that the parts of Hellas controlled by the Mycenaeans had a uniform religion and that the later regional variety of religious practices arose after the collapse of the Mycenaean world. The reader wonders if there really was more uniformity in religious matters than in other aspects of society, such as language, government institutions, economic practices, and family structures and roles. Perhaps Schachter’s investigation about the Mycenaean origins of religious regularity should be expanded to include other cultural elements.

Frank W. Walbank, “Hellenes and Achaians: ‘Greek Nationality’ Revisited” [pp.19-33], asks how recent work on ethnicity can contribute to our understanding of the Hellenistic Achaian League. He concludes that the shared ethnicity of the Achaians was manifested by the common shrines of Zeus Homarios and Athena Homaria and that the Achaian League of the fourth and third centuries came about as a direct continuation of the earlier association meetings.

Björn Forsén contributes an essay entitled “Population and Political Strength of Some Southeastern Arkadian Poleis” [pp.35-55]. Using four different methods of figuring population density, Forsén offers estimates for ancient Tegea, Mantinea, and Orchomenos, concluding that Tegea may have been as much as twice the size of Mantinea, and Mantinea twice the size of Orchomenos. Then he hypothesizes that the Mantinean symmachie created in 423 BCE was a direct product of this size differential: it was not constructed by force, but rather willingly, in response to Tegea’s hegemonic tendencies. This paper presents a provocative thesis which ought to be considered in context but must be accepted with caveats, since it is grounded on the precarious foundation of population estimates.

In “The Shifting Focus of Settlement at Miletos” [pp.57-72], Alan M. Greaves examines the archaeological evidence at the site of Miletos to determine the location of the actual settlement at different times from the most distant past until the modern era. He reasons that the location of the city was determined by its relation to the physical features of the site and that the location changed in response to factors such as defense, communications, and water-supply. The specific information about Miletos will be useful for any scholar working on Ionia, while the general conclusions are not unexpected: “it is clear that defense is always the overriding influence in a settlement location in all times” [p. 69] and a better understanding of the physical context of archaeological remains helps us to better understand the development of complex communities.

Jonathan M. Hall contributes “Sparta, Lakedaimon and the Nature of Perioikic Dependency” [pp.73-90], a most thoughtful and compelling piece on the strategy employed by Spartiates to justify their primacy within the Lakedaimonian identity. He elucidates the differing systems of division within Lakedaimonia (tripartite, bipartite, monocentric, polycentric) and combines this evidence with the information that the word “Lakedaimonion” appears in Linear B from the thirteenth century, probably as a patronymic but certainly not as an ethnic. Hall concludes that the inhabitants of early Sparta may have usurped the name of the much older settlement located elsewhere, in order to promote themselves as the new guardians of old Lakedaimonian heritage. Therefore, the perioikoi were Lakedaimonian before they were subjugated, and this identity may have softened the process and explained the intense loyalty that the perioikoi exhibited well into the fourth century.

Thomas Heine Nielsen adds a well-reasoned article, “Epiknemidian, Hypoknemidian, and Opountian Lokrians. Reflections on the Political Organisation of East Lokris in the Classical Period” [pp.91-120]. His purpose is to ascertain the exact meanings of the three terms used to describe the East Lokrians of the Classical era and to judge what if any overlap existed between them. He concludes that East Lokris was united into a single state that was called “Opountian” in the literary sources, after the name of the dominant polis, Opous. The East Lokrians called themselves by the epichoric, “Hypoknemidian,” but this name did not reflect a political unit until at least the late fourth century. Finally, the word “Epiknemidian” — if it was used at all in Classical times — referred to a geographical part of the state north of Daphnous, in opposition to the Opountian or Hypoknemidian Lokrians to the south.

Pernille Flensted-Jensen concludes the first section of this book with a judicious essay, “The Chalkidic Peninsula and Its Regions” [pp.121-32]. A review of ancient and modern evidence, including the maps made of that region, leads Flensted-Jensen to the thesis that the use of the name “Chalkidike” for the entire peninsula is a modern convention, probably dating to the division of Greece into nomes in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In antiquity, there was no unity in the peninsula and only the central region bore the name.

After these seven essays, the tone of the volume changes. The next four essays, by the single or joint authorship of Mogens Herman Hansen, Thomas Heine Nielsen, and Pernille Flensted-Jensen, scrutinize the use of the word polis in Xenophon’s Anabasis, fragments of historians, Attic orators, and inscriptions from the Archaic and Classical periods. Their conclusions are repeated in the final and most weighty essay of the collection, Hansen’s “A Study of the Use of the Word Polis in Archaic and Classical Sources” [pp.173-216]. Hansen’s essay is the summarizing article for the investigation conducted over the last five years by the Copenhagen Polis Centre into the exact meaning of the word polis. Hansen repeats the so-called lex Hafniensis de Civitate that was first formulated in CPCActs 3 (1996) 28 and 33: “In Archaic and Classical sources the term polis used in the sense of “town” to denote a named urban centre is applied not just to any urban centre but only to a town which was also the centre of a polis in the sense of political community. Thus, the term polis has two different meanings : town and state; but even when it is used in the sense of town its reference, its denotation, seems almost invariably to be what the Greeks called polis in the sense of a koinonia politon politaeias and what we call a city-state” [p.173]

The bulk of Hansen’s essay summarizes the methodology used. The scholars at the Centre have restricted their study to a chronological scope roughly 500-300 BCE and to prose authors. They have looked at both Athenian and non-Athenian sources. In all they have examined 95% (ca. 9500) of the roughly 10,000 occurrences of the word in Archaic and Classical writings, most of which do not have a specific referent. They were left with 1158 instances where the word polis is used in the sense of “town” to refer to one of 447 named Greek communities and 47 named barbarian communities.

He then repeats the conclusions. The Greeks were consistent (less than 1 percent margin of error) in their use of the term polis throughout the period from ca.600 to ca.300 BCE. The Athenian and non-Athenian sources did not vary in their usage: in virtually every instance the word designated both an urban and a political community. The only significant discrepancy involves the application of the term to non-Greek towns: Hellenic writers used it to refer to an urban center but not necessarily a political entity.

This volume as a whole exemplifies prudent and meticulous scholarship coordinated in the pursuit of a unified goal. Thanks to the CPC, ancient scholars now enjoy a clear understanding of what the Greeks meant by the term polis in the context of the prose authors and inscriptions from the sixth to fourth centuries BCE. This prolonged study lays the foundation for all future work on the history of Greek community relationships, ethnicities, and polities, and its value cannot be overestimated.