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Household Interests

Household Interests: Property, Marriage Strategies, and Family Dynamics in Ancient Athens

Cheryl Anne Cox
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 276
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    Household Interests
    Book Description:

    Household Interestsis one of the first books to explore in-depth the nature of the Greek household (oikos) in classical Athens. Whereas theoikostraditionally has been defined as the household of the nuclear family in Greece, Cheryl Anne Cox reveals it as a much more fluid structure, taking care to distinguish between the concepts of "household" and "family." The legal basis of the typical elite household emerges as Cox describes marriage patterns or strategies among the families represented in Attic orations and funerary inscriptions: property interests were a strong motivating force, with the elite marrying within their kin, primarily through paternal lines in which property was transferred. The author ultimately shows that the household was not limited to "family" or kinspeople. Friends, neighbors, concubines or prostitutes, and slaves also shared in property interests and all could have a profound influence on the household.

    After first examining marriage patterns, Cox turns to inter-family relationships. Using anthropological sources and historical studies of European societies, she shows how property interest shaped often conflicted relations between parents and their children and among brothers, and yet it encouraged male charity toward sisters. Cox next considers how property transfer through adoption, guardianship, and remarriage, and the intervention of friends, concubines, and slaves, all contributed to expanding the boundaries of the household beyond kin.

    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: 978-1-4008-6469-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    We are witnessing a renaissance in social history, the goals of which have been provisionally, at least, defined by Charles Tilly For Tilly, the historian necessarily reconstitutes the experience of life as a particular group saw it; by so doing, the historian begins to focus on the ordinary person. However, the study of a particular group would be nonsensical if the historian did not connect this smaller entity with larger social structures and processes. How this connection is interpreted, however, is a matter for debate.¹

    The present work is about the family and household in ancient Athens, but because of...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Families of the Private Orations
    (pp. 3-37)

    Despite the difficulties inherent in the orations, the chronological gaps, the telescoping of events and the falsification of fact, they are valuable sources for the study of how individuals, families, and extended kin manipulated blood and marriage ties and wealth. Within this process of manipulation, patterns emerge which suggest how interests in property could be sustained for several generations. The focus here will be on how such patterns or strategies could reflect an individual’s interests in his or her patriline, that is, the line of descent through males from a male ancestor. We will then assess the role and importance...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Town and Country, Marriage and Death
    (pp. 38-67)

    Our examination of the literary sources has shown to what extent locale, though not necessarily the native deme, played a role in the marriages of the propertied elite. From time to time urban domiciles facilitated alliances among families in neighboring demes or owning neighboring estates, and at other times propinquity in the city encouraged alliances among prominent families in disparate demes. Once two families were united in marriage, kinsmen and kinswomen acted so as to reinforce those ties and consolidate property and wealth. But these strategies were not restricted to the families in the orations. The present chapter will deal...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Harmony and Conflict within the Household
    (pp. 68-104)

    The investigation so far has focused on the kinds of interests motivating marriage alliances among the elite and among the less well known, and hence the emphasis has been on the patriline, the formal genealogy. The patriline, however, is only part of the picture. Marriage is only part of the history of twooikoi, for with marriage came the family and the interests of individuals in the family. Accordingly, we now turn to the relationships among dyads in the nuclear family; that is, among pairs of individuals who held either conflicting or mutually beneficial interests, such as parent and child...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Sibling Relationships
    (pp. 105-129)

    The breakdown at times of the father-son relationship was a breakdown of the formal genealogy, or the genealogy recognized and protected by inheritance law. According to that law property was transmitted downward, ideally from an older male to a younger one. Precisely because this was the preferred form of transmission, father and son could argue over the moment of transmission and the amount of property involved. Just as fathers and sons could argue, so too male heirs, or brothers, could become rivals over property. As we will see, this rivalry could extend along the line of agnatic kin, so that...

  10. CHAPTER 5 What Was an Oikos?
    (pp. 130-167)

    In the opening remarks to his work entitled theOeconomicus, Xenophon has Socrates the philosopher exchange views with Critoboulus, an Athenian citizen and fellow demesman,¹ on theoikos. During the conversation, Socrates poses the question “What do we mean by ‘oikos’?” Is it the same thing as theoikia,the physical building, the house, or does it include all the property one possesses outside theoikia? In the course of answering these questions, Socrates and Critoboulus agree that a man’soikosis the same as a man’s property, even if some of that property lies outside the city in which...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Nonkinsman, the Oikos, and the Household
    (pp. 168-208)

    The fusion and fission resulting from marriage, adoption and guardianship made the membership and the confines of theoikosmuch more complex than hitherto realized. However, kinship did not always lie at the heart of all households. Some households were defined rather by shared tasks of production and/or consumption, which often were not relegated to just one residence, so that several residences could constitute one household. In these instances the nonkinsman or nonkinswoman, whether a citizen or noncitizen, could be a member in an individual’soikia,and no matter how temporary such a person’s residence there, he or she could...

    (pp. 209-215)

    To paraphrase Pierre Bourdieu, between the responsible man who obeys the rules and the irresponsible man who defies them there is also the well-meaning lawbreaker. The latter recognizes rules that he cannot always respect but which he cannot deny either. This behavior contributes to the entirely official survival of the rules.¹ One rule in classical Athens, certainly for elite individuals, was their commitment to kin and family; this rule was reinforced by the laws of thepolis,particularly the succession laws. These laws decreed that an individual should define himself through male lines, that ideally property was to pass on...

  13. APPENDIX. The Political Families
    (pp. 216-230)
  14. References
    (pp. 231-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)