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The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens

The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens

Philip Brook Manville
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztzsj
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  • Book Info
    The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens
    Book Description:

    In this unusual synthesis of political and socio-economic history, Philip Manville demonstrates that citizenship for the Athenians was not merely a legal construct but rather a complex concept that was both an institution and a mode of social behavior. He further shows that it was not static, as most scholarship has assumed, but rather has slowly evolved over time. The work is also an explanation of the origins and development of the polis.

    Originally published in 1997.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6083-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. A NOTE ON REFERENCES AND ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Chapter One INTRODUCTION: WHAT WAS ATHENIAN CITIZENSHIP?
    (pp. 3-34)

    The scene is an Athenian court, about 345 B.C.¹ The speaker is expressing his outrage that a foreign prostitute and her Athenian “husband,” through their wanton behavior and illegal registration of children, have disgraced the laws of Athenian citizenship, something “worthy and sacred” (kalon kai semnon). A rhetorical exaggeration? Not really. A good deal of evidence from the classical age suggests that Athenians did consider their citizenship something very valuable. It was, for example, only sparingly granted to foreigners, particularly in the fifth century.² And as this speaker from the Athenian court notes, the people passed laws regulating it—not...

  7. Chapter Two IN SEARCH OF THE POLIS
    (pp. 35-54)

    “I am Athenian,” said the proud citizen of classical Athens; “I share in the polis.” His conception and exercise of citizenship were bound’intimately to the world of his polis, and we now need to examine the Athenian polis itself. As one looks for its beginnings, the quest for the origin of the community will necessarily provide clues about membership in it. When and how did Athens first become a polis?

    The Athenians themselves do not provide much of an answer. No ancient commentator wrote about the historical invention of the polis, and it is likely that the average man in...

  8. Chapter Three EARLY SOCIETY
    (pp. 55-69)

    A purported beginning of the Athenian polis appears in legend with the event known assynoikismos,literally “the joining together of family households.” During the heroic age, according to tradition, King Theseus unified the many autonomous villages of Attika by bringing them under the political authority of Athens.¹ Though the ancient accounts of thesynoikismosare colored with anachronistic and romantic elements, commentators today nonetheless accept that some kind of unification must have once occurred which constituted a crucial phase in the development of the Athenian city-state.² But when did the synoikismos take place? And more important, did it in...

  9. Chapter Four LAWS, BOUNDARIES, AND CENTRALIZATION
    (pp. 70-92)

    By the seventh century the decentralized social mosaic of the earlier Dark Ages began to change. Slowly but perceptibly, the individualistic ways of life within the many regional villages and corporations were overshadowed by the development of an embryonic unity and evolving sense of self-definition across the Attic population. These centralizing trends, as well as the reasons behind them, mark a hastening of the evolution of the city-state. Thus begins the real history of citizenship and the new concept of “Athenian”—a formally defined member of a polis.

    The potential for centralization lay in the basic cultural similitude of the...

  10. Chapter Five LAND, SOCIETY, AND POPULATION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SIXTH CENTURY
    (pp. 93-123)

    A crucial part of any polis was the territory that surrounded its civic center. That component was indeed vital to the Athenian polis which, as a primarily agrarian community, depended mightily on cultivable Attic land. Athenians farmed it, lived on it, survived by it—by tradition their ancestors were even born from it—and the importance of the soil to their society is undeniable. But who owned the land and who used it? Was land something sacred? How did the customs surrounding Attic land develop in early times? And how did customs contribute to the concept of citizenship that ultimately...

  11. Chapter Six SOLON AND THE “INVENTION” OF THE ATHENIAN POLIS
    (pp. 124-156)

    In the classical age, Athenians looked back upon Solon as a statesman, poet, and traveler. Historians today describe him (variously) as a founding father of democracy, a popular leader who broke the Eupatrid monopoly of power, a moderate but visionary politician who brought civic justice to his society.¹ For our purposes, Solon can be identified more simply: he is the man who established the Athenian polis, and thereby created the beginnings of a formal citizenship.

    It was not, of course, a single-handed achievement, nor was the true import of what was accomplished fully understood by anyone at the time. This...

  12. Chapter Seven TYRANNY, TRIALS, AND THE TRIUMPH OF KLEISTHENES
    (pp. 157-209)

    Plutarch tells the story that the Skythian prince Anacharsis laughed at Solon for thinking he could stop the greed and injustice of Athenians with written laws. Such things, he said, are like spiders’ webs: sufficient to hold back the frail and weak, but easily smashed by the rich and powerful (Sol.5). In the years following Solon’s archonship, rich and powerful men once again dominated political events, but the finely spun web of laws and institutions that defined the polis proved more durable than anyone might have guessed. The foundations of a political community of citizens were now firmly in...

  13. Chapter Eight CONCLUSION
    (pp. 210-220)

    Throughout history, people have pondered the relationship between themselves and the society to which they belong. Citizenship, as one form of that relationship, deserves such reflection; and ancient Greek citizenship provides a provocative case study for those who would look to the past to understand the ties between an individual and the world in which he or she lives. Unfortunately, most traditional treatments of Athenian citizenship describe the phenomenon as a static, timeless, and primarily legal institution. I have challenged such assumptions, and argued that citizenship in Athens was not simply a legal construct, but also crucially included important intangible...

  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 221-258)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 259-265)