The Development of the Polis in Archaic Greece

edited by Lynette G. Mitchell and P.J. Rhodes, London & New York: Routledge, 1997, pp.xiii + 232; 13 figs., + 4 tables. ISBN 0415147522
Trials from Classical Athens by Christopher Carey, London & New York: Routledge, 1997, pp.viii + 247. ISBN 041510761X

reviewed by Kieran McGroarty

National University of Ireland,

The Development of the Polis in Archaic Greece is based on papers read at a conference in Durham in September 1995. The central theme is, as its title suggests, the development of the Polis in Archaic Greece. It is difficult to concern oneself with the idea of the Polis without coming across the name of Mogens Herman Hansen who has added significantly to our understanding of this topic. He rightly takes the place of honour in the proceedings concerning himself in the first chapter with what exactly it is that we mean when we use the term Polis. This paper (The Copenhagen Inventory of Poleis and the Lex Hafniensis de Civitate) reflects the work going on in the Copenhagen Polis Centre where a team of specialists from various countries are attempting to compile an inventory of Archaic and Classical Greek Poleis. What exactly constitutes a Polis is an important question and one of the strengths of this book is that it asks such basic questions. In Socratic style MHH is keen to clear away traditional views and to attempt to provide criteria with which we might provide a thorough classification of Poleis.

J.K. Davies continues in the same vein, warning us about the use of the term Polis in his paper, 'The Origins of the Greek Polis: where should we be looking?'. Poleis extend across such a range and involve such variety that no one model for the rise of the Polis will suffice so JKD suggests we use the term 'microstate' in its place. He also wisely reminds us of R. Parker's recent warning about treating the birth of the Polis as a datable event and risking compacting a long history into a short space.[1] JKD concerns himself with looking at new approaches to studying Polis development, approaches that embrace archaeology and the study of the development of religion. E. Stafford (Themis: Religion and Order in the Archaic Polis) elaborates on aspects of religious development in the Polis. W. Donlan (The Relations of Power in the Pre-state and Early State Polities) and K.A. Raaflaub (Soldiers, Citizens, and the Evolution of the Early Greek Polis) examine the balance of power and the numbers within different groups in the developing Poleis communities. The role of the hoplite soldier comes under scrutiny again, KAR weighing in on the side of those who dismiss the idea of a `Hoplite revolution'. At a tangent to this is J. Salmon's offering on the emergence of the tyrant, (Lopping off the Heads? Tyrants, Politics and the Polis) which also offers a warning about presuppositions. We must be careful about automatically foisting stereotypical characteristics on to such rulers. Another paper which examines the same area but focuses on a different topic is R. Osborne (Law and Laws: How do we join up the dots?) who provides welcome relief in suggesting that, although Poleis vary so much, we can however produce a general picture for the development of written laws. As with many of the other papers RO emphasises the need to combine literary and epigraphic evidence to construct a general picture.

As is understandable a number of the papers focus on the larger Poleis of Athens and Sparta. S. Hodkinson (The Development of Spartan Society and Institutions in the Archaic period) advises caution in assessing Archaic Sparta through fifth century sources while E. Harris (A new solution to the riddle of the Seisachtheia), L. Foxhall (A view from the top: evaluating the Solonian Property Classes), and L. Mitchell (New wine in old wineskins: Solon, Arete, and the Agathos) all focus on the work of Solon. A connecting theme is the need to look again at the primary evidence with a weather eye open for historical reconstruction. As P.J. Rhodes notes in his introduction: 'Much of our textual evidence for the Archaic period was written in the fifth century or later' (p.5).

G. Robertson (Evaluating the Citizen in Archaic Greek Lyric, Elegy and Inscribed Epigram) compares and contrasts the form and content of public elegies and private epitaphs within the Archaic Polis. C. Morgan (The Archaeology of Sanctuaries in Early Iron Age and Archaic Ethne: a preliminary view) again notes the lack of a pattern in her study of Polis sanctuaries. It is not possible, she suggests, to produce an accurate simplified picture. The final two papers in this volume extend beyond the Greek mainland. C. Smith (Servius Tullius, Cleisthenes and the emergence of the Polis in central Italy) compares the experience of urbanisation in Greece and Italy. J.P. Wilson (The nature of Greek Overseas Settlements in the Archaic Period: Emporion or Apoikia) brings us back in a sense to a central theme of this collection of papers: the danger of assessing development in the Archaic period through the distorting lens of the fifth century. In a nutshell the strength of this volume lies in its warning about presuppositions whether borrowed from the fifth century or developed in modern times.

The purpose of C. Carey's book is to provide a representative slice from the Athenian orators to assist a reader (Greekless or otherwise) in gaining an understanding of Athenian law and legal procedure. This book which `began life as life as a set of workaday translations for a course on Athenian law' (p.vii) should now be considered an important asset for anyone in this field, teacher and student. Its concise general introduction to the Athenian legal system and carefully chosen cross-section of texts also make it attractive to the interested general reader. Carey's translation accomplishes the difficult task of remaining faithful to the Greek while presenting a fluid readable text. Even when the new translation of the entire corpus of Athenian oratory currently being worked on under the supervision of M. Gagarin appears, readers will still use this book as a comfortable introduction.

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