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A Banking Perspective
In this ground-breaking analysis of the world's first private banks, Edward Cohen convincingly demonstrates the existence and functioning of a market economy in ancient Athens while revising our understanding of the society itself. Challenging the "primitivistic" view, in which bankers are merely pawnbrokers and money-changers, Cohen reveals that fourth-century Athenian bankers pursued sophisticated transactions. These dealings--although technologically far removed from modern procedures--were in financial essence identical with the lending and deposit-taking that separate true "banks" from other businesses. He further explores how the Athenian banks facilitated tax and creditor avoidance among the wealthy, and how women and slaves played important roles in these family businesses--thereby gaining legal rights entirely unexpected in a society supposedly dominated by an elite of male citizens.
Special emphasis is placed on the reflection of Athenian cognitive patterns in financial practices. Cohen shows how transactions were affected by the complementary opposites embedded in the very structure of Athenian language and thought. In turn, his analysis offers great insight into daily Athenian reality and cultural organization.
Challenging the modern assumption that ancient Athens is best understood as a polis, Edward Cohen boldly recasts our understanding of Athenian political and social life. Cohen demonstrates that ancient sources referred to Athens not only as a polis, but also as a "nation" (ethnos), and that Athens did encompass the characteristics now used to identify a "nation." He argues that in Athens economic, religious, sexual, and social dimensions were no less significant than political and juridical considerations, and accordingly rejects prevailing scholarship's equation of Athens with its male citizen body.
In fact, Cohen shows that the categories of "citizen" and "noncitizen" were much more fluid than is often assumed, and that some noncitizens exercised considerable power. He explores such subjects as the economic importance of businesswomen and wealthy slaves; the authority exercised by enslaved public functionaries; the practical egalitarianism of erotic relations and the broad and meaningful protections against sexual abuse of both free persons and slaves, and especially of children; the wide involvement of all sectors of the population in significant religious and local activities. All this emerges from the use of fresh legal, economic, and archaeological evidence and analysis that reveal the social complexity of Athens, and the demographic and geographic factors giving rise to personal anonymity and limiting personal contacts--leading to the creation of an "imagined community" with a mutually conceptualized identity, a unified economy, and national "myths" set in historical fabrication.
Attic Letter-Cutters of 300 to 229 B.C.
Little of the historiography of third-century Athens survives, and much of what we know—or might know—about the period has come down to us in inscriptions carved by Attic stonemasons of the time. In this book Stephen Tracy, the world's preeminent expert in this area, provides new insight into an unsettled and obscure moment in antiquity.
The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought
The Classical Athenians were the first to articulate and implement the notion that ordinary citizens of no particular affluence or education could make responsible political decisions. For this reason, reactions to Athenian democracy have long provided a prime Rorschach test for political thought. Whether praising Athens's government as the legitimizing ancestor of modern democracies or condemning it as mob rule, commentators throughout history have revealed much about their own notions of politics and society. In this book, Jennifer Roberts charts responses to Athenian democracy from Athens itself through the twentieth century, exploring a debate that touches upon historiography, ethics, political science, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender studies, and educational theory.
People and Prosperity in Southern Spain from Caesar to Septimius Severus
Baetica, the present-day region of Andalusia in southern Spain, was the wealthiest province of the Roman Empire. Its society was dynamic and marked by upward social and economic mobility, as the imperial peace allowed the emergence of a substantial middle social and economic stratum. Indeed, so mutually beneficial was the imposition of Roman rule on the local population of Baetica that it demands a new understanding of the relationship between Imperial Rome and its provinces. Baetica Felix builds a new model of Roman-provincial relations through a socio-economic history of the province from Julius Caesar to the end of the second century A.D. Describing and analyzing the impact of Roman rule on a core province, Evan Haley addresses two broad questions: what effect did Roman rule have on patterns of settlement and production in Baetica, and how did it contribute to wealth generation and social mobility? His findings conclusively demonstrate that meeting the multiple demands of the Roman state created a substantial freeborn and ex-slave "middle stratum" of the population that outnumbered both the super-rich elite and the destitute poor.
The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire
The Migration Age is still envisioned as an onrush of expansionary "Germans" pouring unwanted into the Roman Empire and subjecting it to pressures so great that its western parts collapsed under the weight. Further developing the themes set forth in his classic Barbarians and Romans, Walter Goffart dismantles this grand narrative, shaking the barbarians of late antiquity out of this "Germanic" setting and reimagining the role of foreigners in the Later Roman Empire.
The Empire was not swamped by a migratory Germanic flood for the simple reason that there was no single ancient Germanic civilization to be transplanted onto ex-Roman soil. Since the sixteenth century, the belief that purposeful Germans existed in parallel with the Romans has been a fixed point in European history. Goffart uncovers the origins of this historical untruth and argues that any projection of a modern Germany out of an ancient one is illusory. Rather, the multiplicity of northern peoples once living on the edges of the Empire participated with the Romans in the larger stirrings of late antiquity. Most relevant among these was the long militarization that gripped late Roman society concurrently with its Christianization.
If the fragmented foreign peoples with which the Empire dealt gave Rome an advantage in maintaining its ascendancy, the readiness to admit military talents of any social origin to positions of leadership opened the door of imperial service to immigrants from beyond its frontiers. Many barbarians were settled in the provinces without dislodging the Roman residents or destabilizing landownership; some were even incorporated into the ruling families of the Empire. The outcome of this process, Goffart argues, was a society headed by elites of soldiers and Christian clergy—one we have come to call medieval.
The Conversion of Roman Cappadocia
In a richly textured investigation of the transformation of Cappadocia during the fourth century, Becoming Christian: The Conversion of Roman Cappadocia examines the local impact of Christianity on traditional Greek and Roman society. The Cappadocians Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Eunomius of Cyzicus were influential participants in intense arguments over doctrinal orthodoxy and heresy. In his discussion of these prominent churchmen Raymond Van Dam explores the new options that theological controversies now made available for enhancing personal prestige and acquiring wider reputations throughout the Greek East.
Ancient Christianity was more than theology, liturgical practices, moral strictures, or ascetic lifestyles. The coming of Christianity offered families and communities in Cappadocia and Pontus a history built on biblical and ecclesiastical traditions, a history that justified distinctive lifestyles, legitimated the prominence of bishops and clerics, and replaced older myths. Christianity presented a common language of biblical stories and legends about martyrs that allowed educated bishops to communicate with ordinary believers. It provided convincing autobiographies through which people could make sense of the vicissitudes of their lives.
The transformation of Roman Cappadocia was a paradigm of the disruptive consequences that accompanied conversion to Christianity in the ancient world. Through vivid accounts of Cappadocians as preachers, theologians, and historians, Becoming Christian highlights the social and cultural repercussions of the formation of new orthodoxies in theology, history, language, and personal identity.
The legendary overland silk road was not the only way to reach Asia for ancient travelers from the Mediterranean. During the Roman Empire’s heyday, equally important maritime routes reached from the Egyptian Red Sea across the Indian Ocean. The ancient city of Berenike, located approximately 500 miles south of today’s Suez Canal, was a significant port among these conduits. In this book, Steven E. Sidebotham, the archaeologist who excavated Berenike, uncovers the role the city played in the regional, local, and "global" economies during the eight centuries of its existence. Sidebotham analyzes many of the artifacts, botanical and faunal remains, and hundreds of the texts he and his team found in excavations, providing a profoundly intimate glimpse of the people who lived, worked, and died in this emporium between the classical Mediterranean world and Asia.
A Comparative Study of Sacrifice
For many Westerners, the term sacrifice is associated with ancient, often primitive ritual practices. It suggests the death—frequently violent, often bloody—of an animal victim, usually with the aim of atoning for human guilt. Sacrifice is a serious ritual, culminating in a dramatic event. The reality of religious sacrificial acts across the globe and throughout history is, however, more expansive and inclusive. In Beyond Sacred Violence, Kathryn McClymond argues that the modern Western world’s reductive understanding of sacrifice simplifies an enormously broad and dynamic cluster of religious activities. Drawing on a comparative study of Vedic and Jewish sacrificial practices, she demonstrates not only that sacrifice has no single, essential, identifying characteristic but also that the elements most frequently attributed to such acts—death and violence—are not universal. McClymond reveals that the world of religious sacrifice varies greatly, including grain-based offerings, precious liquids, and complex interdependent activities. Engagingly argued and written, Beyond Sacred Violence significantly extends our understanding of religious sacrifice and serves as a timely reminder that the field of religious studies is largely framed by Christianity.
Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts
Nearly all of us have studied poetry and been taught to look for the symbolic as well as literal meaning of the text. Is this the way the ancients saw poetry? In Birth of the Symbol, Peter Struck explores the ancient Greek literary critics and theorists who invented the idea of the poetic "symbol."
The book notes that Aristotle and his followers did not discuss the use of poetic symbolism. Rather, a different group of Greek thinkers--the allegorists--were the first to develop the notion. Struck extensively revisits the work of the great allegorists, which has been underappreciated. He links their interest in symbolism to the importance of divination and magic in ancient times, and he demonstrates how important symbolism became when they thought about religion and philosophy. "They see the whole of great poetic language as deeply figurative," he writes, "with the potential always, even in the most mundane details, to be freighted with hidden messages."
Birth of the Symbol offers a new understanding of the role of poetry in the life of ideas in ancient Greece. Moreover, it demonstrates a connection between the way we understand poetry and the way it was understood by important thinkers in ancient times.