Mass, Elite, and Hoplite-Farmer in Greek History



[Arion, third series, 5.3 (1998), 99-123]


Review and Discussion of Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks (New York:  Free Press, 1995), and Josiah Ober, The Athenian Revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1996).



            M. I. Finley, in the preface to the first edition of his Democracy Ancient and Modern (1973), wrote that he had attempted to “bring the ancient (Greek) experience to bear on the subject of a major contemporary discussion, the theory of democracy.  This kind of discourse, once not uncommon, has fallen into desuetude.”[1]  In the years since the publication of Finley’s work, few mainstream classical scholars have explicitly attempted to follow in his footsteps, although gender and afro-centrist debates have at times taken on the appearance of arguments about the modern world rather than controversies about issues (and beings) long dead.

            This trend seems now to be changing.  Spurred on in part by the 2,500 year anniversary of the adoption of Cleisthenes’ proposals at Athens, which ultimately (if not immediately) resulted in the government the Athenians styled demokratia,  a significant amount of recent scholarship has turned to Athenian “democracy” as a possible model for addressing the problems of modern democratic societies.[2]  Meanwhile, other works have sought to emphasize the various “failures” of the Athenians when judged by either modern or ancient standards of politics or behavior.[3] 

            Josiah Ober’s The Athenian Revolution and Victor Davis Hanson’s The Other Greeks  each in its way represent one of these respective schools, although Hanson’s work treats far more than the Athenian world of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., and Ober’s presents a collection of essays composed over a decade.  Both works are written with the modern world explicitly in mind, and both self-consciously and expressly adopt a particular stance (or, in Ober’s case, stances) in their treatment of the ancients.  Both, moreover, pay homage to Finley’s work, and perhaps to some degree see themselves as continuing in a line of scholarship suggested by him.  Most significantly, both their works focus on non-elite elements in Greek society and politics (subjects traditionally dominated by treatments of institutions and elite political interaction), with Hanson depicting the life and influence of the middling hoplite-farmer and Ober seeking to define the ideology of the poorer mass of Athenian citizens.  Despite all this common ground, however, their approaches to the ancient Greeks, and their conclusions about the ancient (and modern) world, could hardly be more different.

            As perhaps the foremost authority on Greek hoplite warfare, Victor Hanson’s decision to write a work detailing the life of the hoplite-farmer (or farmer-hoplite) and this farmer’s putative contribution to Hellenic values in the period of the polis (ca. 700 to 300 B.C.) seems perfectly comprehensible.  However, Hanson has in fact offered far more than this, and in the end his work presents nothing short of a complete revision of the history of Greek culture--one that no future Greek historian will be able to ignore.  Hanson’s central thesis is that Hellenic culture and values--and indeed the core values of all Western culture--were created by the “middling” Greek farmer in the decades after 700 B.C.  This yeoman farmer worked a small plot of ten to twelve acres of private land (often land on the margins of cultivation in the previous Dark Age of horse-breeding and cereal production), and through his intensive cultivation of diverse crops (especially the olive and the vine) created surplus food for trade or sale in the polis, which in turn generated the wealth necessary for him to purchase the panoply of arms associated with the Greek citizen-hoplite.  These middling farmers (Aristotle’s mesoi), neither rich nor poor and with a suspicion of wealthy aristocrats and disdain for landless poor, created the independent “constitutional” government (politeia) based on the principle of property qualification for political participation that ruled most poleis before the Macedonian takeover of southern Hellas.  These farmers not only provided protection for their timocratic regimes through the hoplite phalanx, but according to Hanson they also created the philosophical principle of “the mean” (between rich and poor, too much land and too little, planting/harvesting too early or too late) that came to dominate Greek thinking in the classical period.  Moreover, in Hanson’s view, they developed pragmatically a whole series of concepts to protect their own way of life, which in the end came to play crucial roles in the creation of Western ideals and politics, including economic independence and “an economic mentality that sought to improve productivity,” limitation of warfare (and its control by “civilians”), private ownership of property, limited direct taxation and “government” interference, private ownership of arms, and “constitutional government based on local representation” (411-12).  Thus Greek culture and philosophy, as Hanson repeatedly states, did not originate in the garden of the Academy or in any sophisticated discussions in the city agora.  The intellectual life of the city--essentially an “agro-service center” (2)--as well as its temples and other stone buildings,  were rather functions of the wealth produced by the ubiquitous farmer-hoplites, who themselves spurned the town (except for occasional visits to sell their produce or cast their ballots).

            Such is the main argument of Hanson’ massive work, but along the way are valuable observations and arguments about issues related tangentially to the central thesis.  But before turning to some of these, it must be stated at the outset that perhaps the greatest single methodological advantage of Hanson’s approach is his unwillingness to treat Athenian democracy and culture as the teleological center-piece of all Greek history.  This is not to say that Hanson does not treat Athens or the problems of demokratia extensively, but rather that Athens is placed on one end of a spectrum of polis governments that all shared certain similarities in both development and practice.[4]  Through this prism, although Athens indeed emerges as the preeminent democratic polis (which through her empire and cosmopolitan profile placed a strain on the polis-system in Hellas), she nonetheless can be seen as one of dozens of Greek poleis sharing a culture and history that centered on a group of almost forgotten farmers, the other Greeks, who ultimately made even Athens’ achievements possible.

            These other Greeks receive long and loving attention in Hanson’s work, and the reader is treated to detailed accounts of how they worked their small farms, handled slaves and family, interacted with their neighbors, and how they fought together in the phalanx to protect their own farms or add to their border lands.  As in his The Western Way of War, Hanson excels at describing “in human terms” (10) the actual experience of the farmer-hoplite in his laborious day to day existence or during his sporadic and brief (if precarious) stints as a warrior.  Moreover, accounts of life on the Greek farm are often illustrated with modern examples drawn from Hanson’s own experience on the family farm in California, a procedure surely justified by the fact that grape-vines and fruit trees basically require the same things they did 2,500 years ago, even if cultivation practices have changed somewhat.  Hanson’s connection to his subject enhances the empirical method of his scholarship, and elucidates his general reluctance to employ a theoretical approach to Greek history (cf. 6, 418 and below).

            Depicting life on the small Greek farm of the polis period with careful attention to detail, Hanson moves easily from the large-scale problems of planting, harvesting, processing and sales, to the minutiae of pruning, fertilization and irrigation of individual plants, much of which must be a revelation to the non-farming academic (47-178).  Along the way the reader meets particular scholarly debates,  with Hanson arguing (for example) that the Greek farmers typically lived on their farms rather than in small villages (51-53), attended the Assembly only reluctantly (57), and frequently employed a “slave or two” to work the intensively cultivated ground (64-70, 79-85).  The availability of (relatively cheap: 68-9) chattel slaves, the intensive cultivation of marginal land from farm-steads, and the early presence of “constitutional government,” probably “a broad-based oligarchy or timocracy of landowning farmers” are factors resulting from the unique nature of Greek agrarianism in the early polis period:  “Only in early Greece, did independent agriculturists have free title to their plots, own slaves, and have absolute control of their communities” (88).

            For Hanson these farmer-citizen-hoplites formed a self-conscious middle group (mesoi) in Hellenic society (105-115), and although initially viewed as kakoi by the aristocratic descendants of the Dark-Age barons, their existence and ethic came to explain in large part  “the philosophical construct of moderation and ‘the golden mean,’ not vice versa” (110).  The decentralization and relative chaos of the late Dark Age had allowed individual Greek farmers to ensconce themselves on ground considered marginal by the horse-breeding and cereal-growing aristocrats, and the new economic realities created by the success of these farmers’ intensive cultivation of the vine and the olive (among other things) led to social and political change in Greece.  Between ca. 700 and 550 the mesoi had begun “to fashion the city-state in the image of their own agrarian interests,” sometimes through law-givers, who were primarily “pragmatic agrarian reformers” (121).  Moreover, this group was more than conscious of the economic realities of supply and demand, surplus and profit (cf. 100-101, 160-61 with n.7, a fact apparent to some readers of ancient Greek literature, yet often denied by those who would see the ancient Greek economy as “embedded” in their society).

            Even those familiar with Hanson’s earlier work will find much of interest in his lengthy treatment of hoplites, who are now placed expressly within their context as independent farming citizens (221-323).  Particularly notable here is the lucid argument for the introduction of hoplite weaponry after the institution of phalanx-style fighting, and its connection with the surplus wealth associated with the new agrarianism of the period after 700 (224-30).  Cavalry forces are treated as almost entirely “incidental” to the success or failure of Greek warfare (235-37), which for Hanson was normally a function of “nerve” and the psychological advantage to fighting on and for one’s home ground (279-89):  invading forces rarely won Greek hoplite battles.[5]

            In the final part of his work, Hanson devotes three chapters to a consideration of the ways Greek warfare and society changed after the Persian wars, especially with the rise of “total war” adopted from the barbarians (334), and to the effects of the Athenian empire and democracy, and the Peloponnesian War on the decline of the role of the hoplite phalanx (338-43).  Athenian democracy is seen as an extension of the idea of agrarian timocratic egalitarianism (which considered relatively equal plots of land a desideratum) to the landless thetes, who were nonetheless absorbed by the pervasive ideology of the hoplite-farmer (383-86).  The Athenian farmer’s willingness to accept the admittedly anti-agrarian democracy (129) is traced to the short-term benefits the hoplite-farmers received from the increasing reliance on the thete-rowed Athenian navy, the avoidance of hoplite battle with Sparta, pay for hoplite service, and the economic advantages of expanding markets and rising prices for their produce (367-79). 

            Yet despite Hanson’s belief in the effectiveness of the farmer-hoplite-citizen triad in creating the Hellenic culture of the polis period, he nonetheless attributes Athens’ “failure” to save the city-state to the Athenians’ unwillingness to alter completely this social matrix by incorporating other non-citizen elements (such as the numerous metics) into the Athenian political structure, and by not removing “the cumbersome baggage of agrarian prestige and landed egalitarianism” (388-90).  Thus Athens’ cosmopolitan, imperial, marine and urban profile brought the larger Mediterranean world into direct contact with the Greek poleis (who were now forced to compete with a heterodox polis possessed of unique assets), but could not break free enough of the agrarian fabric to forge the new kind of polis that might have survived the turmoil of the late fourth century:  “Athens extended the egalitarian idea of agrarianism to all its native-born residents, and sought to refashion hoplites not as exclusive protectors of agrarianism, but rather as defenders of the new democratic order in the late fifth and fourth centuries.  All that brought her a century of calm, but it also accelerated the destruction of the traditional Greek polis” (388).

            Hanson writes in a clear, vigorous and impatient style, unfettered by jargon and with an intensity that clearly derives from passionate attachment to his subject, but which leads to some repetition of ideas.  His main thesis is hammered home repeatedly (e.g., xvi, 3, 15, 133-34, 181-82, 186 etc.), although this does keep the reader focused on the primary argument of the book amid the frequent and valuable side-trips into ancient and modern agrarian practice and hoplite experience. 

            However, in a work of such scope one inevitably finds places to disagree.  Hanson’s view that the four centuries from 700 to 300 B.C. are “more similar to one another than to any other hundred-year period in Greek history” (22)  may seem reasonable given the agrarian focus, but citation of authorities as diverse as Theognis, Aesop, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Alciphron and Polybius in close proximity to make similar points (57-59) will cause discomfort for some.  (Hanson, of course, could argue that his ability to draw on material from such diverse periods in fact demonstrates the tenacious nature of the agrarian tradition in Hellas.)  His picture of Homer’s Laertes as representative  (as opposed to suggestive) of the “new farmer” of the period around 700 B.C. is perhaps overdrawn (47-89), though it cannot be denied that he extracts a tremendous amount of material out of the Odyssey as well as the Works and Days for his thesis.  Hanson’s treatment of Solon seems somewhat contradictory, since on the one hand he claims that by 600 B.C. in Attica there was “at least the entrenched existence of a militia of yeomen farmers” (112), while on the other he later recognizes that the enserfed hektemoroi suggest that many Attic georgoi had not been “entirely successful” (122).  Solon may indeed have “codified the gains won by the majority of small hoplite-landowners, the zeugitai” (124), but this does not explain the special and clearly extraordinary economic circumstances associated with his reforms. 

              A certain contradiction also appears in Hanson’s view that the slaves on Greek farms worked closely (and even took their meals) with their owners, while asserting that “nearly all servants attempted to flee in times of war or social crisis” (130).  Such ubiquitous flight did not even occur in the American South during the Civil War, and in any event the passage of Thucydides cited here by Hanson (cf. 68) clearly states that most of the 20,000 slaves that deserted during the Deceleian occupation were cheirotechnai, i.e., not farm workers.[6]  Certainly I would not dispute that many of these may in fact have been “skilled [farm] workers”, but most must have been employed in the Attic work-shops or silver mines, which might in part explain their willingness to desert to the helotizing Peloponnesians.  But despite the fact that moderns treat Spartan helotage as a lower form of servitude than that endured by other Greek slaves, I would imagine that to most Greek douloi, the position of a helot--farming his own piece of land even under heavy Spartan rents and with the occasional threat of Spartan terrorism--seemed closer to freedom than their own limited existence.[7]  

            Throughout Hanson assumes that inter-polis wars in early Greece (c.650-480) were generally fought “over contested border ground” (303; cf. 289), apparently taking his leave from Thucydides 1.15.  However, manifold examples of Greek warfare involve religious or political/hegemonial issues:  the Lelantine War, the Sacred War, the struggles for control of Olympia, and the Spartans’ overthrow of various tyrannies and conquest of Messenia.  Hanson treats most of these as exceptional cases, writing that beyond them “there were not more that a dozen important campaigns in the historical record involving the major Greek city-states in more that two hundred years” (303).  But excepting the Persian Wars and treating the period after 480 as  irrelevant, can even the predictable generational conflicts between Sparta and Argos be seen as border contests (as opposed to conflicts over the hegemony of the Peloponnese)?  Sufficient contrary evidence exists to suggest that Hanson’s conception here does not allow enough room for early Hellenic wars undertaken for reasons far beyond the simple border contest.  In any event, how will the farmers on the borders of any polis (who would most clearly benefit from extension of the boundaries) have convinced their interior-dwelling fellows to fight their battles if such an extension were the primary issue?

            Hanson clearly recognizes that the creation of a pragmatic hoplite-farmer ideology must have post-dated the creation of the hoplite-farmer social matrix that spawned it (182, 226).  And yet his faith in this ideology sometimes leads to questionable conclusions.  It is difficult enough to accept that farmer-hoplites consciously attempted “to fashion the city-state in the image of their own agrarian interests” (121) rather than reacting instinctively and defensively to the material and social conditions actually obtaining in their communities.  But it certainly strains credulity to suggest that when Hellenic states founded colonies with small, ten to twelve acre plots of land for the colonists, the family farmers “wanted no repetition of the struggles at the end of the Dark Ages between the upstart kakoi and the privileged agathoi” (195).  Surely the colonies’ plot size was rather simply the empirically determined optimum size of a farm to be worked by one hoplite-farmer family.

            Disagreement over such points, especially in a very detailed work of 500 or so pages including notes, should not be allowed to obscure the value of one of the most challenging and thought-provoking works on Greek history in a decade.[8]  Hanson has clearly identified a middle stratum of the Hellenic society and economy, one which arguably accounts for the creation of most of the political and social values we associate with ancient Greece and claim for ourselves.  The work, moreover, paves the way for further scholarship that will both draw on the experience of the scholar and speak eloquently to the society in which he lives.  Nevertheless, the very frequent references to Hanson’s own farm experiences and conditions in modern American farming may give some scholars pause, and undoubtedly many will bristle at the outright indictment of the plight of the small, family farmer in modern America, a case Hanson clearly takes up ex parte, but which is argued passionately and often eloquently (e.g., 8, 11-16, 419-33).[9]  Yet the most uncomfortable section of Hanson’s excellent work for most urban classicists will undoubtedly be his unmitigated assault on the profession as currently constituted, which Hanson sees as increasingly dominated by work so specialized that it is unread even by other classical scholars, and by a love of “theory” untempered by experience in the real world (412-19).

* * * * * *

            In The Athenian Revolution, Josiah Ober attempts to tie theory to the pragmatic world of ancient Hellas and modern America.  Pulling together ten essays written between 1983 and 1993 and adding a substantive introduction to the whole (chapter one) and explanatory forewords to each piece, Ober’s book provides a useful and convenient collection of influential works published by one of the profession’s foremost students of Athenian democracy.  Moreover, unlike many such collections of previously published works, the papers of this volume when taken together and with their individual introductions do provide a coherent overview of Ober’s methods of approach and solutions to the problems of demokratia. Those conclusions and methods may be characterized by what Ober styles the “history of ideologies,” an “approach to understanding the past” that seeks to bridge the gap between historians and political theorists.  By this method, according to Ober,

[h]istorical studies grounded in contextual specificity can gain purchase in contemporary debates when informed by the concerns of normative theory.  And theory will be both tempered and strengthened by a confrontation with the pragmatic consequences of political thought and practice in a society that developed norms strikingly similar to those of modern liberalism, but predicated those familiar norms on radically unfamiliar grounds (p.3).

Despite this intention, Ober only infrequently points the reader toward the modern world, far less (for example) than does Hanson, or Finley in Democracy Ancient and Modern, which as another treatment of “elitist theories” of democracy sometimes seems to stand as a presiding Geist over Ober’s book.

            Reaction to the so-called elitist theory stimulates much of Ober’s work in these essays and (along with “naive positivism”) brings forth his most polemical passages.  The study of Athenian democracy, in Ober’s view, has been dominated by an (often unspoken) adoption of Robert Michels “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” as reflected by Ronald Syme in The Roman Revolution and transmitted through Syme’s immense auctoritas to scholars of Greek history.[10]   Syme asserted (for Ober infamously) that “in all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the façade,” and Ober repeatedly complains that Greek historians, imbibing Syme’s dictum with their mothers’ milk, have allowed a kind of Romanized vision of clientela, great houses, and factiones paucorum to cloud the picture of Athenian democracy.[11]  Thus proponents of the “elitist theory” seek to study the relatively small group of leaders who in their view are necessary for the function of any government and the real power active in any “democracy.”  In place of an analysis of institutions and prosopography” (emphasis added) Ober prefers an “ideological” approach that “demands close study of political language, in order to show what it was that constituted the will of the demos, and in order to trace how the popular will was translated into individual and collective action within the evolving framework of institutionalized political structure” (133-34 with n.21).  Moreover, this method is distrustful of “common sense” arguments, which assume “that the Athenians tended to think pretty much like us” (134), replacing these with admittedly ideological models “not native” to the ancient world (14), but which if handled self-consciously (we are told) will be able to provide a “meaningful and useful representation of the past” (15; cf. 6, 12). 

            Ober draws on such models freely, noting the influences of the “Cambridge school” of intellectual history (123), “revisionist Marxism” (141), and “game theory” (163), but especially acknowledging debts to Foucault’s treatment of power as “discursive” (8, 10, 88-90) and to J. L. Austin’s “speech-act” theory, which treats speech as “performative” (that is, capable of bringing something into being: 151):  “The felicity [i.e., success] of a speech act is demonstrated by perlocutionary effects:  the subsequent behavior of the relevant members of a society” (152).

            Models may perhaps be helpful in the study of ancient societies when crucial evidence is lacking or ancient practices appear alien to modern eyes.  But models are themselves the creations of modern scholars (and are often developed for analysis of post-ancient societies), and their use clearly implies a belief that in fact the ancient Athenians did tend to think and act in ways similar to those for whom (and by whom) the models were originally developed.  Thus the naiveté attributed to those who do not employ models often is most evident in those who adopt them readily and then defend them on the grounds of some putative superiority to “source-based” analysis.  Such a fundamental objection may serve as an appropriate introduction to several problematic areas noted in Ober’s methods and conclusions.

            It is a necessary function of Ober’s polemical method that he must identify and characterize the views against which he inveighs.  He is, moreover, well aware of the danger of erecting straw men to be easily demolished, since he both notes and criticizes one such argument in the work of another scholar reviewed in his volume (134-35).  Yet Ober frequently traduces the “naive positivists’” search for “objective truth” and their attempt to write history in some Rankean “as it actually happened” fashion (6; cf. 13-14).  But who, one might ask, argues this way today?  Has anyone read the words “objective truth” or “wie es eigentlich gewesen ist” in any recent scholarly publication?  Is there any living scholar who actually views evidence as “transparent, neutral, and authoritative” (111)?  Again Ober:  “The . . . positivist approach supposes that historical truth is a unitary, stable and fully accessible to the objective investigator” (9: emphasis added).  Does any scholar of the late twentieth century actually need to be told at the beginning of every paper or monograph that what the author offers is simply the best that (he believes) can be done with the evidence as it stands?   Since logic and evidence (evaluated critically) are our only available guides to the past, every scholar known to me recognizes the necessarily asymptotic character of the study of ancient history--that is, we may hope to approach a “historical fact,” but in the end any analysis based on the use of our own imperfect minds and the very imperfect evidence will fall short of “objective truth.”  However, this in no way alters the fact that the only tools we have to evaluate our own analysis and conclusions (whether model-driven or not) are the evidence and logic themselves.  On the other hand, the introduction of a standard of “meaningfulness” and “usefulness” (13 etc.) to evaluate our own study of the past, necessarily privileges our cultural biases and agenda.  After all, it was “meaningful” (and perhaps even “useful”) to the Greeks to explain lightening as an act of Zeus.  If we can derive meaning and utility from any given explanation of a historical event or process, does that in any way demonstrate the superiority of that explanation? 

            Despite his own attacks on the mythical contemporary Ranke, Ober himself writes of “historical reality” (7) and “popular ideology,” as if they were things any more susceptible of identification than the “objective truth” about a historical event.   Even comparing history to map-making and geometry (and geometry’s postulates to history’s premises and “models”), Ober also speaks of “unpacking” the “ideological positions and the associated (though nonidentical) social realities that underpin the rhetorical statements and claims of complex texts” (6), and then warns against modern interpreters “unpacking” an item “that was never packed into” the “source-suitcase” (6).  Such a claim obviously is no less guilty of pretensions to discovering “objective truth” than those of a scholar attempting to date an inscription based on its letter forms, or a historical fragment based on its language, provenience or character, or attempting to explain (in part) a politician’s actions based on his connections or background.  The reader may reasonably ask himself which scholar has more (and less ideologically sullied) tools at his disposal to achieve his ends.

            Less than enamored of the positivist chimaera, Ober seemingly finds the interpretive modelers somewhat more appealing, though warning that they provide the “Charybdis of an overly subtle approach that permits the source to say anything its reader wishes” to the Scylla of positivist “interpretive naivete” (7).  Ober ostensibly charts his course between these two monsters of “free-floating relativism and obdurate positivism.”  Yet Ober’s description of his own method in fact bears a striking resemblance to his characterization of Athens itself:  “The Athenian political order thus emerges as a form of pragmatism that skirted the two extremes of value-free relativism and absolutist positivism” (141).  An amateur psychologist might suggest that Ober’s conflation of Athenian politics with his own scholarly approach could underlie his attempt to question and ultimately to justify the “moral status of Athens as a society” (140 and 162).  But leaving this aside, surely it is fair to ask whether Ober’s view of Athens called forth a method approximating (and thus confirming) it, or whether his preferred method insensibly replicated itself in its picture of the Athenian polis?[12]

            At times Ober’s method does not appear so foreign to the eyes of the naive positivist,  for he sometimes provides the reader with a glimpse into the results his preferred approaches might offer for the study of an actual historical event, and the case of Cleisthenes’ role in the foundation of Athenian demokratia serves (from this perspective) both as the eponymous paper and centerpiece of the volume.  Moreover, here we have the Oberian method in panoply:  the shield of the straw man to be demolished is introduced at the outset (“the Great Man as the motor driving Athenian history,” a model “employed by Greek historians since the early 1960s to explain the behavior of Cleisthenes the Alcmaeonid, the figure often credited with ‘founding’ Athenian democracy”: 32), followed by the actual weapon of the more or less conventional argument itself, which is then crested with methodological flourish--the “speech-act” model of J. L. Austin.  Let us take each piece of equipment in turn.

            Ironically, among the few scholars who employ a kind of “Great Man” approach to Cleisthenes’ reforms are P. Léveque and P. Vidal-Naquet, who focus on the reformer’s Alcmeonid heritage and supposed geometric and mathematical principles, but whose work is nonetheless praised by Ober as a “classic” (33).[13]  Perhaps, therefore he means Herodotos himself, who wrote that it was Cleisthenes who “established the tribes and demokratia for the Athenians” (6.131.1).  Many scholars since the 1960s have hardly seen Cleisthenes as a “Great Man,” unless we mean by that simply a member of one of the most important families in Athens who in some way introduced major political reform to the Athenian polis.  Some have seen this as a (partially) self-interested attempt at gerry-mandering and an attack on local cult-ties (Lewis), an effort to smash the regional power of other aristocrats and ensure dominance of the city aristocracy (Sealey), an attempt to grant all citizens the right of equal political participation in order to end previous aristocratic feuds and utilizing the banner of isonomia (Ostwald) which represented a real movement toward democracy (Ehrenberg), or as a way to defeat political rivals by (in part) uniting Attica and reuniting the supporters of the Peisistratids, but which had unforeseen consequences (including the fall of Cleisthenes himself:  Fornara and Samons).[14]  Any living proponents of the “Great Man” theory need not fret, however, for one finds in Ober’s own analysis that such men apparently did exist and play important historical roles before the creation of democracy.  Thus Solon and the tyrants, we are told, were responsible for the creation of a politically self-conscious citizenry (38), while their actions would seem to have robbed Cleisthenes of any but superficial credit for the regime associated with his name.[15]

            Ober’s analysis of the ancient evidence for the reforms of Cleisthenes advances along very conventional lines.[16]  In fact, Ober himself claims “that by sticking very closely to the primary sources it is possible to derive a plausible and internally coherent narrative that revolves around the Athenian people rather than their leaders” (34).  The generous reader of this sentence will not conclude that Ober’s goal was merely to establish if such a “plausible” interpretation was “possible” given the evidence, but rather that an honest attempt was made to evaluate the evidence before any conclusions were drawn.  However, these conclusions may give this reader pause:  Ober maintains that “the point at which Athenian democracy was born, was a violent, leaderless event:  a three-day riot in 508/7 that resulted in the removal of King Cleomenes I and his Spartan troops from the soil of Attica” (36).

            To arrive at this conclusion difficult and important historical questions are simply neglected.  Thus Cleisthenes’ Alcmeonid background and his clan’s problematic relationship to the Peisistratid tyrants is swept away in two sentences and a footnote (37 with n.6).  The family’s connection rested on more than Cleisthenes’ archonship in 525 during the tyranny:  Cleisthenes, after all, was the homonymous grandson of the tyrant of Sicyon, and his sister had been married to Peisistratos himself; moreover, after the revolution of 508/7 Cleisthenes’ government sought some kind of arrangement with Persia (Hdt. 5.73)[17] and years later the Alcmeonids were accused of plotting to help the Persians (with whom Peisistratos’ son Hippias had taken refuge).  Now Ober recognizes that the model of democratic politics from the Periclean or Demosthenic age will not apply to the late sixth century (37-38).  And yet the ideology that developed during those ages was apparently already a historical factor to be reckoned with:  thus Cleisthenes’ proposed reforms were enacted (probably through the Assembly) because “the masses saw that these reforms would provide them with the institutional means to express more fully their growing sense of themselves as citizens” (38).  Here the model of mass self-consciousness and unity calls forth the evidence of its own existence.[18]  The only other evidence Ober musters is Herodotus’ statement that the Athenians were all “thinking the same things” after the Spartans under Cleomenes seized the acropolis (see below).

            Ober argues for contextualization elsewhere (see chapter 10), and it may be well to consider the context of Greece in the late sixth century and the Alcmeonids’ arguably unique position in Athenian society and politics.[19]  The Athenians of 508/7 lived in a world where two kinds of poleis predominated:  those ruled by more or less broad timocratic oligarchies (see Hanson) and those ruled by tyrannies.  Demokratia was not part of the political landscape, thus when Cleisthenes “took the demos into partnership” after the experience of three or four years of narrow oligarchic rule and factional fighting (Hdt. 5.66.2), how were the people of Athens to interpret his action?  Many, undoubtedly, described the movement in the only terms they possessed:  Cleisthenes, the erstwhile ally (but late enemy) of the Peisistratids, will now likewise champion us (the people) against the aristocrats.[20]  To the Spartans, moreover, this new regime will have resembled nothing so much as a reinstitution of a Peisistratid-style tyranny by one of the clan’s former compatriots, and probably this is how Isagoras sold Cleomenes on another expedition to the north.  The innovation of Cleisthenes (on this view) was his ability to combine an existing tyrannic tactic (championship of the demos against the aristocrats) with the basic structure of timocratic polis government (including property qualifications for office, and working council/assembly/magistrates), while making residence in Attic demes (as opposed to membership in clan-controlled phratries) the deciding criterion for citizenship.

            The chronological issues of precisely when Cleisthenes actually made his proposals, and whether they were partially or fully enacted before the Athenian resistance to Cleomenes and the Spartans, are brushed aside (40-1 with n.12, 48), but only an answer to these questions will assure us of what the resisting Athenian boule and demos believed they may have been fighting to protect--leaving aside the very obvious possibility that they had no positive program in mind, but rather simply sought a removal of the particular aristocrats led by Isagoras (his stasiotai: Hdt.) and the invading force of their Spartan allies. The same can be said for the putative name of Cleisthenes’ regime (a very vexed question):  since Ober utilizes democratic “ideology” in his explanation, he presumably assumes that the name demokratia existed in 507, or that it was created shortly thereafter by this act of “self-definition on the part of the demos itself” (35).[21]

            Perhaps most troubling is the view of the Athenian resistance to the Spartans’ attempt to overthrow the boule (probably Cleisthenes’ new boule of 500, although Ober is agnostic: 48).  For Ober this was a leaderless and spontaneous “riot” of Athenian citizens after the Spartans under Cleomenes failed to dismantle the boule and seized the akropolis (43-46).  Herodotos’ report that the Athenians were “all thinking the same things” for Ober “supports the idea of a generalized and quite highly developed civic consciousness among the Athenian masses--an ability to form and act on strong and communal views on political affairs” (44).  But even if this ambitious exegesis were accepted it could not obscure the fact that there is absolutely no suggestion (much less an indication) of a mob or a riot in the accounts of Herodotus and Aristotle.  Herodotus’ account (upon which Aristotle relied)[22] is never presented as a whole by Ober, and it taken together suggests conclusions very different from those he draws.

Cleomenes having arrived in Athens with a small force banished 700 families of the Athenians, which Isagoras had suggested to him.  And having done these things, next he tried to dissolve the boule, and he was placing the official powers (archai) in the hands of 300 partisans (stasiotai) of Isagoras.  (2)  But with the boule resisting and not wishing to obey, both Cleomenes and Isagoras and his partisans seized the acropolis.  The remaining Athenians, having the same things in mind (ta auta phronesantes) besieged them for two days. And on the third day however many were Lakedaimonians departed from the country under treaty (Hdt. 5.72.1-2).

In Aristotle the plethos is said to have been “collected together,” and the Spartans besieged and then allowed to leave the Athenian stronghold after three days under truce (Ath. Pol. 20.3).[23]  Now since Greek has perfectly good words for a “mob” and “violent uprisings,” and since Herodotos and Aristotle did not use those terms, why should we infer their existence?  Surely not even the “speech-act” theory requires the assumption of phantom mobs and riots?

            It will perhaps be best to leave aside the issue of whether a “riot” (never testified to have occurred) of a “mob” (never testified to have existed) can have been “leaderless” (36).  Yet one may note that Ober here relies on an argument from silence (Herodotos does not name any leaders:  42) buttressed by a historical example of another putative leaderless mob action:  the French Revolution (48-50).  The facts that the Athenian boule resisted the Spartans before the people expelled them and that the Third Estate/National Assembly refused to be disbanded by Louis XVI before the Bastille was stormed, are stripped of their causal significance.

            In all this the effect of Austin’s speech-act theory is hardly palpable (cf. 47).  But it perhaps reappears in the conclusion, where Cleisthenes is described as “not so much the authoritative leader of the revolution as . . . a highly skilled interpreter of statements made in a revolutionary context and of revolutionary action itself”. . . whose effectiveness rested “in his ability to ‘read’--in a sensitive and perceptive way--the text of Athenian discourse in a revolutionary age, and to recognize that Athenian mass action had created new political facts” (52).  Enough has been said about the evidence to show that this formulation bears it no resemblance, whatever its relationship to the “speech-act” model. 

            May not this model tell us something, however, about our own profession?  Perhaps one might better understand modern classical scholarship through a kind of “publish-act” theory.  That is, if Ivy League University Press publishes a book containing one view, and Small State University Press publishes a book containing another, in the profession of classics (because of our “existing social, political and linguistic protocols” [152]), the ILUP publish act is “felicitous” (i.e., it has “perlocution” [effects on its audience:  151-52]) and “illocution” (it allows its author to “do things in the world”: 151).  An author’s work thus becomes important, influential and orthodox because of its “constative” (150) ability to bring “political and social ‘truths’” into being, and is certainly not susceptible of correction by logical analysis and criticism or (shudder) common sense.

            If this be the case, one wonders whether Ober’s “publish acts” are products of his own “elite” mind (in turn a product of the best training, elite institutions and connections) or rather (Ober should concede) simply a part of a “discourse” created by the ideology resident in the mass of classical scholars and political theorists.  As a group, after all, we are at least as homogenous as the Athenian demos, drawn almost exclusively from white, middle- and upper-class American college students.  Is, therefore, Ober’s work a function of the “hegemony” of “popular [classical] ideology” (154), or is he a critic of that ideology, “co-dependent” and in a symbiotic relationship with it (141)?  Are Foucault and Austin, upon whose work Ober so heavily draws, in fact “Great Men” whose individual thoughts and (publish) acts change historical paradigms (but who Ober insists are not the “motor” driving history), or are they simply “discursive” elements?  If the latter, how can they tell us more than other such elements (be they “positivist,” “Marxist,” or simple “common sense”) that participate in the same discourse?  

            Yet the so-called “speech act” theory may be criticized on its own terms as well.  After all, to speak of historical interpretations of Athenian “popular ideology” as “meaningful and useful” is arguably no more enlightening than the modern politician’s call to consider what “the American people want/think/believe.”  Does such an “American people” exist, or is it not always the shifting and fluid combination of various subgroups and individuals, which must themselves be identified and analyzed?  Would discovery of such an American “popular ideology” through analysis of the public speech of modern politicians or the media explain particular tax increases (or cuts), the Gulf War, or the Oklahoma City bombing?

            Moreover, speaking in specific terms, Ober’s treatment of Athenian ideology is problematic.  Ober identifies the “center of political gravity” among the “relatively poor (those who could not afford hoplite arms)” who “had developed a sophisticated consciousness of their own place in Athenian politics” (63-64) and whom Ober describes as “ordinary citizens” (123).  But as Hanson has shown, the dominant “ideology” even in democratic Athens was always that of the hoplite-farmers, which tended to raise and absorb the thetes “ideologically” rather than ostracize them.[24]  Thus Aristophanes’ “heroes” usually represent this class,[25] and evidence from one of Ober’s own test cases (Demosthenes 21:  chapter 7) suggests the same thing.  For when Demosthenes attempts to place himself rhetorically “shoulder-to-shoulder with the demos” (96) he paints himself as a “middling sort of man:  a hoplite” (97). 

            Ober’s desire to lump all Athenians into a kind of thetic “popular ideology” also obscures particular circumstances that must have come into play at given moments in Athenian history.  Thus it serves no purpose to speak of Athenian assemblies (or juries) as if they all had the same character or make-up (77), a fact Ober himself seems to recognize when critiquing others (114).  So  too Pericles placed a different emphasis on rowing versus farming in his first speech in Thucydides (made in the ekklesia before the war’s beginning and Pericles’ policy forced many hoplite-farmers into the city:  1.140-44, esp. 141-42) than he did in his later two (which were probably heard by a more representative “cross-section” of the Athenian demos: 2.35-46, 60-64).

            In the end, where does all this consideration of ideology and models lead?  One could certainly argue that Syme’s “model” of oligarchical domination is not methodologically inferior to Ober’s “mass ideology,” and is in fact consonant with the observed qualities of other “democratic” institutions, be they social clubs, town governments or the American Philological Association.  “Oligarchies” may be formed based on many different kinds of constituent elements (wealth, bureaucracy, birth, religion, physical attributes, social connections, political views); they are almost never completely closed to “outsiders” and must, of course, consider the views or “ideology” of the body they seek to dominate.[26]  That is, no hypothetical ruling “elite” can ever be separated from the social matrix that spawned and sustains it.  This makes study of “the masses” a necessary part of the historical enterprise, but cannot justify denigrating or ignoring prosopographical and institutional factors that clearly play a role in human interaction.  Moreover, if self-consciousness and frankness about one’s own ideology is the key to writing good history, then Syme (and many of his followers) can hardly be fairly criticized on those grounds. 

            Thus the work of identifying and characterizing the social matrix of a given population has justifiably occupied historians of recent generations, most of whom do not completely ignore the actual evidence for clan-based, hierarchical structures in Athenian society.  Yet phratries, cults controlled by clans (gene), the Eupatridai, the exegetai, and extra-polis aristocratic clan connections are either never mentioned or dismissed summarily by Ober (25).  Here again, the author does not treat Athens as a contextualized Greek polis (with all the complex relations that entails), but rather presents an ideological regime adrift in a free-floating idea-world, resembling nothing so much as the thought-experiment of a modern political theorist.    Ober himself demonstrates that the polis of Athens was a complex social organism (chapter eleven), and yet his own polis is often denuded of those religious, familial, social and economic factors that tend to motivate real human beings.

             Indeed, Thucydidean “fear, honor, and self-interest,” and careful social and material analysis (as Hanson) would provide the needed corrective to the “history of ideologies.”  Thucydides did in fact have as a “concern the relationship between public speech (logos), brute facts (erga), and power (kratos, dunamis).”[27]  But Thucydides also wrote that what was “the truest cause” of the Peloponnesian War, was in fact “least spoken about openly” (1.23).  For Thucydides, Pericles was “in fact (ergôi) the first citizen” while Athens was “in name (logôi) a democracy” (2.65).  Contextually, it is difficult to render the “speech-act theory” meaningful for the Greek world, where “in deed” meant “truly” and “in word” meant “ostensibly.”

            Finally, Ober fails to appreciate adequately the importance of the empire and especially the Attic silver mines in the development of Athenian democracy and society.  Athens occupied a unique position as a very large, land- and sea-oriented Greek polis in the fifth century, which had only lately thrown off its tyranny, and which possessed the resources of silver-mines and (what follows from that) a very large fleet and an empire with its attendant revenues.[28]  The importance of the empire has been emphasized by many scholars, but the role of the silver mines (which were extremely rare in Hellas), and Themistocles’ proposal to use the mines’ profits for the navy (Hdt. 7.144) has certainly been underrated in studies of the circumstances facilitating Athenian democracy.[29]  These factors offered politicians like Themistocles, Ephialtes, Pericles and Cleon the opportunity to conceive of gaining and wielding power in different ways than were possible in other poleis, specifically through promising and delivering to the demos both the spoils of empire and the fruits of the earth (cf. Aesch. Pers. 239-40, Eum. 945-47).[30]  As Ober himself admits, democratic theory follows democratic practice (11), and at Athens that practice derived in large part from the combination of unique historical circumstances within a polis environment (Hanson), and the individuals (hoplite, elite and mass) who learned to harness them.

            What is more, no consideration of Athenian democratic “ideology” (especially one like Ober’s which is explicitly offered as a comparandum for modern democracy) should be undertaken separate from an evaluation of what the Athenians actually did during the period from 508/7 to 322.  Briefly protecting their fellow Hellenes against Persia, they came to make war repeatedly on their former Greek allies, while seeking peace with the Barbarian and simultaneously exacting compulsory payments from their subject Hellenic states.  Following Pericles’ example, Athenian politicians steadily increased the frequency and amounts of payments to the demos, until even theater tickets were subsidized.  Not far from the akropolis and perhaps the most famous building in Europe, they passed judgment of execution on their own generals and other magistrates, ostracized leaders like Themistocles and Cimon, and forced Socrates to take his own life.  The brutal realities of the Athenian regime--some stated baldly by Pericles and Cleon in Thucydides--perhaps better explain why certain political theorists and classicists have wished to deny the “truth” of Athenian democracy (21) than the unwitting endorsement of some “Iron Law of Oligarchy” by those same scholars.[31]  As Hanson has written, “more Greeks probably died fighting for or against democratic Athens than those killed during the entire earlier history of the Greek city-states.”[32]  Since Ober has adopted the popular view that democracy must be the best form of practicable government (142; cf. 5), he must identify what is “good” about this form and virtually ignore what is potentially “bad.”  The answer to democracy’s problems, therefore, becomes a tautologous “more democracy” (71; cf. Hanson, pp. 388-89).  Moreover, critics of democracy (whom Ober describes as useful and necessary in antiquity) are not welcome under the modern form of the regime (160; cf. 21), unless they, like Ober, only hold democracy up to its own putative standards.

            The relative “stability” of Athens (two internal revolutions and two disastrous defeats in less than two centuries) might have offered some comfort to the Jacksonian democrat in a young America.[33]   But for us, it may be more useful to ask (with Hanson) why democracy ultimately failed to sustain itself, and then to discover why it was so belligerent, why it relied first on external sources of funding and then on increasingly burdensome taxation, why it executed or exiled many of its most outstanding citizens, and why its literature and art became increasingly parasitic on, or pale reflections of, their earlier manifestations, while “political” oratory and philosophy flourished.

            Modern historians may lament the fact that our sources show an “elite” bias deriving from the social realities of ancient Hellas.  But we must admit freely that this fact--the nature of our evidence--will always privilege the study of “elite” elements within that culture.  Perhaps no “unified field theory” exists in the discipline that will allow us to explain events within or between the various strata of Hellenic society simultaneously and economically , or to understand perfectly how those relations affected inter-polis and international relations.  It may even be necessary, if not desirable, for scholars to continue addressing the strata of Greek society separately.  We must not, however, proceed with hostility to the study of other levels, or with uncritical adoption of “models” that ostensibly overcome the limits of evidence and human reason.  For as Hanson has shown, an empirical inquiry into the non-elite world can shed considerable light on a crucial segment of Greek society, and answer questions studies of “elites” cannot address adequately. 

            Pericles’ personal thoughts, as well as those of his barber or the “average” hoplite are not available to us.  Nor, some moderns might suggest, would even they explain his actions fully.  But the fact remains that attempts to describe and understand those actions, and the polis in which they occurred, cannot be made without a study of the elite’s unique background and connections, as well as an analysis of the polis-bonds that tied him to his fellow citizens, the actual actions of this individual and his polis, and the material circumstances and social matrix within which he and the farmer-hoplite or barber acted.  As Finley wrote, “the history of ideas is never just the history of ideas; it is also the history of institutions, of society itself.”[34]  It is also the history of individuals--mass, elite and hoplite-farmer--and it is their Athens that we seek to recover.


Loren J. Samons II                                                                                 Boston University




[1]Finley, Democracy Ancient and Modern2, (New Brunswick, NJ, 1985),  xi.


[2]See, for example, the editors introductions and many of the essays collected in J. P. Euben, J. R. Wallach, and J. Ober (eds.), Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstruction of American Democracy (Ithaca, NY, 1994), and J. Ober anc C. Hedrick (eds.), Dêmokratia:  A Conversation on Democracies Ancient and Modern (Princeton, 1996).


[3]J. T. Roberts, Athens on Trial (Princeton, 1994),  256-314, provides a useful survey of recent debates.


[4]For the similarities in the governmental structure of all poleis see also R. Sealey, The Athenian Republic (University Park, 1987), 92-96.


[5]However, the use of the Spartan example (281-82) is not apt, considering how rarely the Spartans had to defend their homeland, and their numerous foreign victories in the period from ca. 550 to 404/3.


[6]Xen. Poroi 4.25 suggests that the occupation of Dekeleia led to the desertion of large numbers of mining slaves.  Cf. Dover, HCT vol. IV, 405-6. and Thuc. 6.72.3 with Dover, 348.


[7]Finley suggested that the reason for helot revolts was to be sought in their proximity to free status, which made their relatively light oppression that much more unbearable (Economy and Society in Ancient Greece, eds. B. D. Shaw and R. P. Saller [New York, 1982], 109).  Spartan militarism is also overstated by both Hanson (275) and Ober (339), but this has become a commonplace:  S. Hornblower (in J. Dunn [ed.], Democracy:  The Unfinished Journey 508 BC to AD 1993 [Oxford, 1992] , 1) refers to Sparta as a “totalitarian monster;” Ober (Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens [Princeton, 1989], 6) to the “organized terrorism [of Sparta] against its unfree population.”  Oddly, J. Roberts  (n.1, 289) writes that Sparta has been reduced to the status of “other” in contemporary scholarship, but herself uses terms like “the armed camp on the Eurotas” (6) to describe Lacedaemon.  Ironically, scholars who claim to draw heavily on Finley seem to have ignored his actual work on Sparta.; see  “Sparta and Spartan Society,” in Economy and Society, 24-40: “militarism in Sparta was in low key” (34).


[8]One might also note a minor slip involving the expenses of the Samian War for Athens, which amounted to at least 1,200 (not 200) talents (IG i3 363 with Meiggs-Lewis, pp. 150-51), a correction that actually strengthens Hanson’s argument (317).


[9]Hanson has now devoted an entire book to the what he calls a “postmortem” of family-farming in America:  Fields Without Dreams--Defending the Agrarian Idea (New York, 1996), pp. xi-xii.


[10]R. Michels, Political Parties:  A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, trans. E. and C. Paul (New York, 1962 [orig. ed. 1915]),  and R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939).


[11]Syme, 7.  Throughout Ober argues against the propriety of using Roman comparanda for Greece:  see especially 18-26, 53, 182; cf. Hanson, 214.


[12]At 10-11, he suggests the former.


[13]Vidal-Naquet modifies this position slightly in the preface to the new English edition of the work, but the text remains unaltered:  Cleisthenes the Athenian, trans. D. A. Curtis (New Jersey, 1996), xxxiv-xxxv.


[14]D. M. Lewis, “Cleisthenes and Attica,” Historia 12 (1963), 22-40;  R. Sealey, “Regionalism in Archaic Athens,” Historia 9 (1960), 155-80 = Essays in Greek Politics (New York, 1967), 9-38; M. Ostwald, Nomos and the Beginnings of Athenian Democracy (Oxford, 1969), 149-58 and From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of the Law (Berkeley, 1986), 15-28; V. Ehrenberg, “The Origins of Demokratia,” Historia 1 (1950), 515-48 and From Solon to Socrates2, (London, 1973), 90-103; C. W. Fornara and L. J. Samons II, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (Berkeley, 1991), 37-58.


[15]Other “Great Men” appear elsewhere in Ober’s work, including Themistocles (64) and even Pericles (65-66, but cf. 54).  Pericles’ insights are nonetheless limited to the military sphere and the invention of “grand strategy”--no such credit is given to him in the arena of politics.  Athenian leaders are elsewhere allowed to create military strategies while “the polis of Athens” is credited with discovering “in democratic politics a way to broaden the base of the social order” (70).  


[16]This is true elsewhere as well.  In chapter 8 Ober writes as if he finds the method of M. H. Hansen objectionable (109), but in fact his substantive criticisms often involve practice (115-17), i.e., what conclusion should be drawn from a given piece of evidence.  In chapter 7 (93-94) he engages in conventional analysis to show that Demosthenes 21 Against Meidias was actually delivered.  Here, however, he never considers the possibility that Demosthenes might have finished the speech without ever delivering (or even intending to deliver) it publicly.  (Such an act would be understandable if he actually took a bribe not to prosecute Meidias, as Aeschines 3.51-2 implies:  he would have had his cake and eaten it.)  We are instead presented with the false alternatives of an unfinished and published speech, or a finished and delivered speech.  See also his chapter 6.


[17]This initiative cannot be attributed to “the people,” since they seem to have rejected such a Persian connection when it was put before them (Hdt. 5.73.3).


[18]Ober’s confidence in the existence in this ideology also provides a unique solution to the problem of the lack of extant texts describing democratic theory from ancient Athens.  Ober opines that the “simplest hypothesis is . . . [that] few such texts ever existed,” and that such texts were unnecessary in Athens because “democratic ideology so dominated the political landscape that formal democratic theory was otiose” (147-48).  The “simplest hypothesis” is of course that no such texts existed, though it is ingenius to argue from the absence of evidence for a given ideology’s theoretical support that the ideology pervaded the “political landscape.”  Can we, after all, complain about the scanty evidence for Cleisthenes’ reforms (34) only to postulate a “growing sense of themselves as citizens” among the Athenians?


[19]Instead, they are treated as just another “fine old family” (40).  But the Alcmeonids apparently stood outside the narrow Eupatridai who controlled cults (among other things), and moreover are the only Athenian family known to have suffered from a curse.  See Fornara and Samons, 1-24. 


[20]For tyrants (including Peisistratos) as champions of the farming class, see Hanson, 114-15, 471-72 (n.21), with literature.


[21]For the problems surrounding the origins and original meanings of the terms see Fornara and Samons, 48-56, with literature cited, Sealey (n.4), and M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (Oxford, 1991), 69-71. 


[22]For the reliance of the Athenaion Politeia on Herodotus here see P. J. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford, 1981), 240-46.


[23]The passage perhaps deserves quotation:  “With the boule having offered resistance and the people having been collected together (sunathroisthentos), those around Kleomenes and Isagoras fled into the akropolis, and the demos sitting down (proskathezomenos, i.e. in before the akropolis) besieged (epoliorkei) them for two days.  On the third day they released Kleomenes and all those with him under treaty (hupospondous).” The military flavor of this passage suggests a picture far different from a riot.  Ober wishes to read the passive participle sunathroisthentos reflexively, i.e., the “mob”. . . “gathered itself” together:  45 with n.20.


[24]Hanson, esp. 214-19, 271, 384-86, and id., “Hoplites and Democrats:  The Changing Ideology of the Athenian Infantry,” in Ober and Hedrick (n.2), 289-312, esp. 305-7.


[25]See Jeffrey Henderson, “The Demos and the Comic Competition,” in J. J. Winkler and F. I. Zeitlin (eds.), Nothing to Do with Dionysos? (Princeton, 1990), 271-313 , and cf. Hanson, 56-57, 215-17.


[26]As Syme well knew, and a reading of the chapters on “Tota Italia,” “The National Programme” and the “Organization of Opinion” (276-93, 440-75) in The Roman Revolution will easily show.


[27]However, I do not agree that this was his “central” concern (20).


[28]On the importance of the empire and service in the fleet for the development of demokratia at Athens see especially K. A. Raaflaub, “Power in the Hands of the People:  Foundations of Athenian Democracy,” in I. Morris and K. A. Raaflaub (eds.), Democracy 2500:  Questions and Challenges (Atlanta, forthcoming), who rightly focuses on the unique circumstances in fifth-century Athens and the egalitarian heritage of Greek poleis in general.


[29]See Thuc. 6.91.7; Xen. Poroi 4, Mem. 3.6.12;  A. M. Andreades, A History of Greek Public Finance, trans. C. N. Brown (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1933), 269-73, and especially A. Boeckh, The Public Economy of Athens2, trans. G. Lewis (London, 1842), 309-13, 615-16, 651-54, on their importance.


[30]Hanson well points out how such a system benefited (in different ways) both the thetes and the hoplites (367-79, and n. 24 above).


[31]For the brutal realities see also P. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern (Chapel Hill, 1992), 191-218.


[32]Hanson (1996, n.24 above), 289-312, 311 n.28; cf. The Other Greeks, 303, 311.


[33]For Ober’s emphasis on Athenian “stability,” even relative to other Greek poleis, see 5, 29-31, 54-55, 63, 68.


[34]Finley (n.1), 11.