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Financing the Athenian Fleet

Public Taxation and Social Relations

Vincent Gabrielsen

Publication Year: 2010

To meet the enormous expenses of maintaining its powerful navy, democratic Athens gave wealthy citizens responsibility for financing and commanding the fleet. Known as trierarchs—literally, ship commanders—they bore the expenses of maintaining and repairing the ships, as well as recruiting and provisioning their crews. The trierarchy grew into a powerful social institution that was indispensable to Athens and primarily responsible for the city's naval prowess in the classical period. Financing the Athenian Fleet is the first full-length study of the financial, logistical, and social organization of the Athenian navy. Using a rich variety of sources, particularly the enormous body of inscriptions that served as naval records, Vincent Gabrielsen examines the development and function of the Athenian trierarchy and revises our understanding of the social, political, and ideological mechanisms of which that institution was a part. Exploring the workings, ships, and gear of Athens' navy, Gabrielsen explains how a huge, costly, and highly effective operation was run thanks to the voluntary service and contributions of the wealthy trierarchs. He concludes with a discussion of the broader implications of the relationship between Athens' democracy and its wealthiest citizens. "This is a marvelous book: an original, well-researched, and compelling treatment of the financial organization of the Atheniannavy, from which Gabrielsen expands our understanding of the functioning of Athens' democratic government. In particular, he addresses the topic of how democracy induced its richer members not to hide their money but to spend it on behalf of Athens. Gabrielsen has mastered a rich body of unusual—and fundamental—material which he presents with clarity and intelligence. This book is a major contribution to Athenian social history."—Robert Wallace, Northwestern University.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

The costs of keeping substantial fleets afloat and the fiscal systems developed by maritime states in order to finance naval activity are important issues for historians interested in the social and economic changes undergone by major naval powers. ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Ancient authors and titles are cited in accordance with the standard abbreviations in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (2d ed., 1970). Titles of periodicals are abbreviated according to the system of L'ann

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pp. 1-15

In his account of the naval engagement between the Greek and Persian fleets at Artemision in 481/0, Herodotos sums up the achievements of the Greek side this way: "Of the Greeks on that day the Athenians bore themselves best . . . of the Athenians, Kleinias son of Alkibiades distin- guished himself campaigning with...

Part 1: The Establishment of the Institution

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pp. 17

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1. The Origin of the Trierarchy

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pp. 19-39

As is the case with other Athenian institutions, the origin and early history of the trierarchy are fundamentally important but poorly documented. Hence their particulars remain—and unless entirely fresh evidence comes to view they will continue to remain—not susceptible to sturdy proof. ...

Part 2: Qualifications for the Trierarchy

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pp. 41

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2. Qualifications by Wealth

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pp. 43-67

Apart from their relevance in an inquiry into the function of the institution, each of the aspects relating to qualifications for the trierarchy can elucidate some broader issues. The mode of recruitment and the rules about temporary or permanent exemption from the obligation, ...

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3. Appointment

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pp. 68-84

The ascertainment of property owners liable to perform trierarchies must have taken place in the demes (see chapter 2). An important question that now needs to be clarified is whether in the preselection of nominees the authorities were assisted by centrally kept registers. ...

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4. Exemption

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pp. 85-102

The Athenians viewed the trierarchy as a duty or tax (telos); exemption from it was termed ateleia and the person exempt was ateles. In this chapter, I discuss the various ways in which an individual might try to obtain a respite: regular exemption or the antidosis. ...

Part 3: Financial Responsibilities

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pp. 103

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5. The Crew

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pp. 105-125

In dealing with a system of naval finance in which one part of the overall cost is paid by the state and another part comes from private outlays acquired through taxation, it is important to try to isolate the spheres of responsibility covered by the two main agents, the state and the trierarchs, and the distribution of burdens among individual trierarchs. ...

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6. The Ship

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pp. 126-145

Maintenance of naval materiel entailed huge costs. Generally, the construction of new ships and the proper upkeep of existing ones was to a fairly large degree the responsibility of the state. However, a significant part of that responsibility was in practice allocated to the trierarchs. ...

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7. Equipment

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pp. 146-169

My previous assessment of the naval potential of Athens in terms of hulls (guided by the wish to obtain an idea about the magnitude of resources needed for maintenance) led to a clearly optimistic impression. ...

Part 4: Institutional Transformation

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pp. 171

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8. The Reforms

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pp. 173-217

As Thucydides makes plain, wealthy Athenians were foremost among the champions of the oligarchic movement that in 411 spread from the army at Samos to Athens. The heavy burdens they had to bear because of the ongoing war became a breeding ground for financial grievances, and this factor gave additional impetus...

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pp. 218-226

The huge requirements for funds to operate the awesome but costly engines of war, it has been argued, rendered the presence of an efficient fiscal infrastructure indispensable right after the creation at Athens of a large, state-owned fleet in the years 483/2-481/0. ...

Appendix: Standard Equipment

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pp. 227-228


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pp. 229-271


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pp. 273-291


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pp. 293-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899300
E-ISBN-10: 0801899303
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801898150
Print-ISBN-10: 0801898153

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010