The battle rages under the walls of Troy, when Hector is sent back to the city by his brother, the augur Helenus, to ask the women and elders to pray. Once in Troy, Hector also angrily rouses his brother Paris to the fight. Paris seeks reconciliation, which Hector defers to after the ousting of the Greeks, when a κρητῆρα (…) ἐλεύθερον19 [krētēra (…) eleutheron], literally a free krater, that is, a mixing-bowl in honour of freedom, will be offered to the gods.
Homer deploys the word eleutheron not only in association with the word krētēr, bowl, but also with the word hēmar, day. In turn, the phrase eleutheron hēmar, literally, free day, in the Homeric narration is almost immediately reversed as δούλιον ἧμαρ20 [doulion hēmar], slavish day. In all these cases, our modern reading requires a somewhat metaphorical shift from the literal translation of Homer’s lines: more precisely, we have to project onto the Homeric text our habit of constructing reality with abstract nouns, such as ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery.’
Of course, I am not refusing to translate the Homeric expressions eleutheron krētēr and eleutheron hēmar with English periphrases such as ‘the bowl to celebrate freedom’ and ‘the time of liberty’ respectively. I am rather suggesting that we resist the temptation to absolutize our current language uses as the inevitable outcome of past language transformations.
Neither was the word eleutheron necessarily to evolve as the abstract term eleutheria, nor, pace Jakobson,21 was a pre-existing metaphorical pole to allow our hermeneutic transformation of a historically determined expression (eleutheron, free) into another expression (eleutheria, freedom) yet to appear. For sure, still at the time of Plato the shift from epithets such as good, pious, and beautiful to their nominalised forms (the good, the pious, and the beautiful, as we previously recalled) deeply puzzles Socrates’ interlocutors.
Moreover, whilst we nowadays rely on a well-established grammatical taxonomy that allows us to classify eleutheron as an adjective and eleutheria as a (derived) noun, this categorisation is yet to appear in ancient Greece. It is Plato who possibly invents22 the first repartition of language parts as a simple dichotomy23: ὀνόματα [onomata] and ῥῆματα [rhēmata].24
Plato makes the unspecified Ξένος [Xenos], Stranger, or better, Foreign Guest25 – the main character of his dialogue The Sophist – turn these two terms already in use into technical linguistic definitions: ‘we may call a rhēma the indication which relates to action (…) and the vocal sign applied to those who perform the actions in question we call an onoma.’26
The word rhēma is not part of the Homeric lexicon. Its first extant occurrence is in a seventh-century BCE poetic fragment by Archilochus, where it may be understood as a solemn announcement.27 Only one century later, Theognis deploys it as a synonym for ‘word.’28 However, the Platonic Guest associates rhēma with the expression of an action, so that it may appear as the first definition of a key grammar notion: the verb.29
The translation of the second term of the dichotomy proposed by the Guest, namely onoma, may likewise appear deceitfully unambiguous. Whilst the term has already the meaning of ‘name’ in Homer,30 the definition of the Platonic Guest seems to refer to the logical subject of the sentence, and we may be tempted to translate this other half of Plato’s dichotomy with a later grammatical definition of a specific part of discourse: the noun, indeed.
Plato also deploys the couple onoma and rhēma in his (possibly previous) dialogue Cratylus, with the apparent meaning of ‘word’ and ‘phrase’ respectively.31 Aristotle recovers the partition with its later sense, that one suggested by the Platonic Guest; yet, his use of the term rhēmata is closer to the logical notion of predicates than to the grammatical definition of verbs. However, in his language classification in the Poetics, Aristotle does not name adjectives, which instead appear in the Rhetoric under the broad definition of ἐπίθετα32 [epitheta], that is, additions33 or epithets.
If we consider existing works, it is not until the second century BCE that Dionysius Thrax grants adjectives a status (albeit not autonomous) in the grammatical arena. Dionysius is traditionally acknowledged as the author of the Τέχνη γραμματική [Tekhnē grammatikē], the art of grammar, which is the first extant Greek grammar. Whilst the Tekhnē recasts the traditional Platonic partition of rhēmata and onomata, the latter are further subdivided into three categories, the last of which is devoted to the ἐπίθετον [epitheton], that is, the addition, or epithet: Dionysius gathers under this Aristotelian label both adjectives and nouns that are used with the function of modifiers.
Only much later do adjectives emerge as independent grammatical entities. In the twelfth century, Abelard recalls adjectiua34 as specific grammar items, which grammatically concord with the associated nouns: within flexional languages such as Greek and Latin, concord distinguishes adjectives from appositions. It is somewhat ironic that Abelard gives adjectives theoretical visibility by acknowledging them as nomina adjectiua, that is, literally, adjoining names.35
I am soon to show how, during the first documented wave of nominalisation in Western languages, the word eleutheria, freedom, which now we define as a noun, is derived from the word eleutheros, free, which now we define as an adjective. Yet, if a clear-cut severance between adjectives and nouns is only claimed nineteen centuries after the beginning of the Greek nominalising process, we may at least consider the possibility to construct this crucial transformation less anachronistically.
Rather than rendering the derivation of eleutheria from eleutheros with the language of later grammar, we may describe it in Aristotelian terms as the transformation of a predicate into a subject. This description likewise applies to Plato’s transformations of epithets into ideas, and we may well understand the birth of eleutheria as part of the genesis of philosophical abstractions.
Moreover, the task of rendering this transformation goes also beyond the shift, however important, from adjectives to nouns, or predicates to subjects: what is also at stake is the role of our current categories in the construction of the past. Inasmuch as we acknowledge our retrospective projections and their inevitability, the diachronic – that is, historical – differentiation of the past from the present (which is the achievement of historicism) may not be enough: we may also have to acknowledge a synchronic differentiation between the various depictions of the past in the present.36
However, if we observe the use of the word eleutheron, free, in the Iliad, a diachronic, or historical differentiation emerges: eleutheron does not directly characterise a specific human subject as a free subject, as we would expect according to our current use of the term ‘free.’ In Homer, eleutheron rather defines a significant object (the krater) and a portion of time (the day) as free: human subjects are only implicitly described as free, through their relation with such objects and times, which act as a sort of objective correlative37 to the subjective condition of freedom.
Besides, though the condition of freedom is experienced individually, it is either maintained or lost as a collective endowment: by depicting the day as either free or slavish, Homer alludes to a human group and its shared condition, which depends on the result of the war.38
Following its appearance in the epic,39 the term eleutheron is then related to its dichotomous counterpart doulion, slavish: the loss of the war immediately entails for all the defeated the loss of their free condition. In the Iliad, this loss is prefigured by those female prisoners that the Greeks capture during the war. The dispute over one of them, the princess Briseis, is in fact the cause of the major event in the narration, namely, the wrath of Achilles. Actually, though Briseis is part of the booty, she is treated by Achilles as a wife: Patroclus even insists that she will be formally married after the end of the war and the return to Phtia.40
However, only a few centuries after the composition of the Homeric poems, the grammatical association of the term eleutheros with human subjects does directly express their free condition: the first extant occurrences of this association are in the fragments of Solon.
Solon’s surviving texts witness both old and new uses of the word eleutheros. In an impressive poetic piece, Solon constructs a parallel between humans and γῆ41 [gē], the land. On the one hand, he claims to have stripped the land of the stones that mark the condition of debt42: hence the land, which was a slave before, is now eleuthera, free. In this powerful image, the land is both metaphorically free, as in Homer, and literally free from its marking objects. On the other hand, Solon recalls the many formerly enslaved Athenian men, whom he proudly affirms ἐλευθέρους ἔθηκα43 [eleutherous ethēka], I made free.
We may assign Solon’s fragments to the first half of the sixth century BCE. We have instead to wait for the first half of the following century to meet the first example of nominalisation of the term eleutheros, which appears in the text of Pindar’s eighth Isthmian ode. The poem is composed not after 478 BCE, and probably before the Battle of Plataea, where in 479 BCE a wide Greek coalition inflicts a decisive defeat on the Persian invaders.
Pindar makes an allusion to the danger hovering over Greece, and he suggests that even contemporary ills may be healed with ἐλευθερία44 [eleutheria], which we may translate as ‘freedom.’ We may observe that the new nominalised term eleutheria is feminine, possibly following the tradition of the various Greek goddesses who personify arts and virtues. However, as the rest of the poem is devoted to mythological narrations, it is the further occurrence of the word eleutheria in Pindar’s first Pythian ode that offers us more ground for interpretation.
The new word also appears in its Ionic45 version ἐλευθερίη46 [eleutheriē] as part of a commemorative inscription of the Greek victory over the Persians. These verses may be those which Pausanias ascribes to Simonides,47 but neither the author nor the dating of the text are certain.
For sure, Pindar composes the first Pythian ode in 470 BCE to sing the praises of the Syracusan tyrant Hieron, whose chariot has just won the race at the Pythian Games in Delphi. The celebration of the victory allows Pindar to hail also another major feat of Hieron, who has recently founded for his son Deinomenes the city of Aitna, θεοδμάτῳ σὺν ἐλευθερίᾳ48 [theodmatō syn eleutheria], (endowed) with a god-crafted condition of freedom.
In the previous sentence, Pindar produces a semantic shift from the Homeric text, where the epithet theodmētos,49 god-built, is used to commend the remarkable city walls of Troy. Pindar applies the Doric version50 of the epithet – theodmatos – to a feature of the city of Aitna that is not material, but abstract: its condition of self-determination.
As we saw, before Pindar the Greeks describe this condition with another epithet, namely, eleutheros. We also saw that Pindar derived from this epithet the feminine term eleutheria: he can thus deploy the new word as an abstract substitute (the city’s freedom) for the Homeric concrete object (the city walls).
Pindar’s neologism seems to conflate the free determination of the tyrant Hieron – who is not only the subject, but also the client of the poem – with the self-determination of the city of Aitna.51 This notion of free determination at its highest degree is also expressed by another neologism,52 ἐλευθερίος53 [eleutherios], which Pindar applies to Zeus as father of the goddess Τύχα [Tykha], Fortune. Whilst the word eleutherios is generally translated as ‘deliverer’ or as ‘liberal,’54 in this context it seems rather to emphasise Zeus’ freedom as unlimited possibility to act, which generates a likewise unlimited (good) chance.55
However, it may not be by chance that the word eleutheria emerges right at the height of the Persian Wars: the new term both epitomises and catalyses the joint war effort of the Greeks, as it relies on the Homeric dichotomy of eleutheron and doulion to acknowledge the shared Greek condition of freedom from the impending Persian domination.
A further shift occurs during the Peloponnesian Wars as a mere semantic transformation of the word eleutheria, which is appealed to by the Athenians as a specific quality of their political constitution. This new meaning is first attested in the work of Herodotus, which appears around the year 425 BCE, a few decades after the composition of Pindar’s eighth Isthmian ode.
Herodotus frequently uses the new word, which he writes in the Ionic version ἐλευθερίη56 [eleutheriē]. He generally does not apply the new term to individual subjects but to political entities; yet more important, in Herodotus eleutheriē explicitly denotes a condition of emancipation not only from an external political power,57 but also from the rule of an internal tyranny.58
Moreover, Herodotus also follows the grammatical path of the nominalisation of the neuter form eleutheron: he makes Xerxes express his distrust for the military ability of the Greeks because they are ἀνειμένοι (…) ές τὸ ελεύθερον59 [aneimenoi (…) es to eleutheron], devoted to freedom. A similar nominalisation is attested in Euripides, who deploys it in the form τοὐλεύθερον60 [touleutheron], which is a contraction with the definite article τό [to].
However, when in Herodotus eleutheros is somewhat associated with individual subjects, it is also an expression of social status: the Median king Astyages can recognize his young grandson Cyrus because of the latter’s comparatively ἐλευθερωτέρη61 [eleutherōterē], freer speech. Aeschylus shows the same logic at work by making the mythological character Κράτος62 [Kratos], who embodies superior power, affirm that no one is free but Zeus.63
Sophocles pushes this logic to a tipping point when he acknowledges the presence of a virtual freedom even despite adverse conditions: Εἰ σῶμα δοῦλον, ἀλλ’ ὁ νοῦς ἐλεύθερος64 [Ei sōma doulon, all’ ho nous eleutheros], if the body (is) enslaved, the thinking agent at least (is) free. As Sophocles splits the free spirit from the practical condition of freedom, he opens the way to the ethical appropriation of this notion by the philosophers.
Actually, in both Plato and Aristotle, the political and ethical aspects of the notion of eleutheria are still inseparable. In particular, Plato mocks the excess of eleutheria in the democratic πόλις65 [polis], the city, which assigns ἰσότητά τινα ὁμοίως ἴσοις τε καὶ ἀνίσοις66 [isotēta tina homoiōs isois te kai anisois], a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. According to Plato, only the rulers of his ideal city are to be δημιουργοὺς ἐλευθερίας τῆς πόλεως67 [dēmiourgous eleutherias tēs poleōs], craftsmen of the city’s freedom.
Moreover, Plato contends that whenever ‘a polis with a democratic constitution [is] thirsty with freedom,’68 the order of things is likely to be subverted: as ‘freedom spreads to everything,’69 it undermines the priority of fathers over sons, of citizens over alien residents and foreigners, of masters over slaves, and of men over women respectively.70
In the Republic, Plato notoriously puts forth as a remedy to the dreaded drift of democracy towards anarchy and tyranny a doubly threefold scheme, in which the ordered parts of the individual ψυχή [psykhē], the soul,71 mirror those of the polis. The λογιστικόν72 [logistikon] or calculative, that is, rational soul in the head is to control the other two centres: the Homeric chest-soul θύμος73 [thymos], which Plato renames as θυμοειδές74 [thymoeides], spirited, and the ἐπιθυμετικόν75 [epithymetikon], the appetitive soul that is set in the abdomen. These three inner entities correspond to the three classes of Plato’s ideal city: the ἄρχοντες76 [arkhontes] or rulers, the στρατιῶται77 [stratiōtai] or soldiers, and the δημιουργοί78 [dēmiourgoi] or producers. However, later on, in the Laws, Plato also suggests a more pragmatic distribution of public roles according to a rule of proportional inequality,79 which takes account of a variety of parameters, from virtue to wealth.
Aristotle describes eleutheria as the distinctive character of democracies according to the latter’s supporters80: only from this perspective ‒ he argues ‒ do the self-determination of the city and that of the citizens converge as democratic order. In other words, for Aristotle the notions of eleutheria and δημοκρατία81 [dēmokratia], democracy, may be part of a political composition, but they do not necessarily belong together. Only in the democratic constitution is the government of the city entrusted to the eleutheroi, that is, all the free citizens.82 This is not surprising if, as I attempted to show, the notion of eleutheria is part and parcel of both the emergence of a generic power to act and its attribution to specific human subjects.
In the first book of the Politics, Aristotle constructs on this power to act a threefold structure of domestic command of masters over slaves, husbands over wives, and fathers over children.83 The three despotic, matrimonial and paternal forms of command differ in kind from the political command over free men, because the former are determined by nature, and thus they are not reversible.84 In particular, domestic powers are exerted on those people whose βουλευτικόν85 [bouleutikon], that is, deliberative faculty, is impaired (slaves), devoid of authority86 (women), and not yet fully developed (children) respectively. On the contrary, the political command over free men depends on the constitution of the city. We may notice that it is precisely the condition of being eleutheros that grants, on the one side, the domestic right of command over slaves, wife, and children, and on the other side, the political possibility either to rule or to be ruled in public.
Aristotle even questions the relation between master and slave, but he ends up turning this factual domination into the natural expression of human hierarchical differences. Here Aristotle applies a rhetorical reversal that is similar to the apparatus devised by Plato for constructing his forms. I recalled how Plato fabricates his ideal entities by turning current epithets into abstract qualities, such as, for example, the good and the beautiful. The actual referents of these abstract qualities, that is, good and beautiful things, then become mere imperfect instances of the qualities themselves, or, in Platonic jargon, copies of their ideal models. In the Aristotelian version of this reversal procedure, the Platonic forms are replaced by the natural order.
Aristotle also follows his master Plato in devising the same partition for the outer and the inner dimensions: Aristotle’s psykhē mirrors his split domestic sphere, as ‘in it, indeed, there are by nature a ruling and a ruled part.’87 Moreover, just as, for example, in Australian traditional culture kinship structures apply to the whole of reality,88 for Aristotle the dichotomy between ruler and ruled casts its shadow not only on the human sphere, but on the whole cosmos:
Such a duality exists in living creatures, but not in them only; it originates in the constitution of the universe; even in things which have no life there is a ruling principle [arkhē], as in a musical mode.89
According to Aristotle’s crude universal projection of his authoritarian view, as the living being consists primarily of soul and body, ‘the one is by nature the ruler, and the other the subject.’90 However, though Aristotle derives this absolute subordination from Plato,91 he does not describe the couple of master and slave as a simple diaeretic92 subdivision of reality, but as a more complex relation of uneven belonging:
The master is only the master of the slave; he does not belong to him, whereas the slave is not only the slave of his master, but wholly belongs to him.93
This is because for Aristotle a property stands in regard to its owner as a part in regard to the whole.94 We may notice that a likewise asymmetrical and hierarchical relation of inclusion structures Aristotle’s logical works and biological classifications.95
Moreover, according to Aristotle, the dichotomy between ἄρχειν [arkhein], to rule, and ἄρχεσθαι [arkhesthai], to be ruled, cannot be overcome, so that even the condition of eleutheria under a democratic constitution requires an alternation of roles: τὸ ἐν μέρει ἄρχεσθαι καὶ ἄρχειν96 [to en merei arkhesthai kai arkhein], to be ruled and to rule in turn.
A more general opposition pits ποιεῖν [poiein], acting, against πάσχειν [paskhein], being acted upon.97 As Aristotle gives absolute priority to acting, his general notion of δύναμις [dynamis], potency, is construed as the ability to be unaffected.98 This aspect of Aristotelian potency may even be understood as a precursor to the notion of negative freedom.99
It is not difficult to see that the condition of being unaffected harks back to the archaic vocabulary of war.100 In this case, it is somewhat ironic that the concern with the physical integrity of the individual warrior, after a long detour throughout the public sphere, both as the claim of political freedom and its recasting as a philosophical category, is then gradually turned back towards the individual sphere. Euripides’ consideration that the soul of a slave may be more free than that of a free man101 already appears to turn upside down Astyages’ approach, as reported by his contemporary Herodotus. However, it is after the collapse of the city-states that Bion, himself a former slave, goes as far as literally erasing the state of fact, when he proclaims that ‘good slaves are free, but bad men are slaves of many passions.’102
The polemical disconnection of freedom from actual practices, and its relocation to the inner recesses of the soul, at the same time witnesses a generalized retreat from the public sphere and produces a new individuation: the cosmopolitan103 subjectivation of Hellenistic narrations. I will later show how in the hands of Jewish and then Christian authors, this new subjectivating path will end up producing a new social link, which appears as the result of individual choice.
As the path of freedom cannot be reduced to the transformations of a single word, I will now return to my starting point, so as to consider a veritable constellation of other terms. These terms do not simply integrate the core definition of freedom as expressed by the word eleutheria: on the contrary, insofar as morphological varieties, they are essential components of the semantic network that connects the various Greek notions of freedom. In particular, I will examine three groups of compound words, which are construed with the three prefixes ἀ-[a], ἰσο-[iso], and αὐτο- [auto] respectively.
At least since Homer,104 the Greek language has deployed the letter α, alpha (αν [an] in front of vowels) as a prefix before words that define actions, agents, and qualities, in order to express their privation. For example, the derived English term ‘analgesic’ still characterizes drugs with the power of suppressing pain, ἄλγος [algos].
This language mechanism allows the expression of a specific free status as the absence of a determining factor. A most intriguing example is the isolated occurrence in the Iliad of the term ἄουτον105 [aouton], unwounded. Is it not at least remarkable, the quasi-homophony of aouton with the word that defines the self (αὐτός, autos), especially considering that, in the Homeric poem of the massacres, bodily integrity appears as a most valuable asset, regardless of the ethics of ἀρετή [aretē], the virtue of the warrior?
However, the vocabulary of freedom takes further shape in the narrations of other armed confrontations. Whilst narrating the events of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides uses the word ἀνεπίτακτος106 [anepitaktos] to define the power of acting without orders, and hence, an independent stance. The terms ἀβασίλευτος107 [abasileutos] and ἀτυράννευτος108 [atyranneutos] describe the condition of not being ruled by a king and by a tyrant respectively. Philo’s later construction ἀνηγεμόνευτος109 [anēgemoneutos] produces instead a metaphorical shift towards the inner dimension, as it laments the absence of a guide for the soul.
Back to the political sphere, the words ἄναρχος110[anarkhos], ἄναρκτος111 [anarktos] and ἀναρχία112[anarkhia] depict, in an often derogatory way, a state of lack of authority and command. Moreover, both the words ἀνεύθυνος113[aneuthynos] and ἀνυπεύθυνος114 [anypeuthynos] underline the alarming dearth of accountability of absolute rulers. The term ἄμοιρος115 [amoiros] articulates the double nature of participation, as the latter’s absence may be understood either as being excluded (from rights), or as being exempted (from duties).
An analogous duplicity is expressed by the participle ἀφειμένος116 [apheimenos] and by the verbal adjective ἄφετος117 [aphetos], which may also describe the position of having been freed from all incumbencies so as to be devoted to the gods.
The prefix alpha is also deployed to denote a limitation of freedom. Euripides uses with the sense of unrestrained frankness the word παρρησία118 [parrhēsia] ‒ from πᾶς [pas], all, and ῥῆσις [rhēsis], saying ‒ which may also be understood as ‘freedom of speech’: hence, the term ἀπαρρησίαστος119 [aparrhēsiastos] may be translated as ‘deprived of freedom of speech.’
The technical term ἀνεμπόδιστος [anempodistos], unhindered, may have been coined by Aristotle to render the absence of whatever obstacle to the pleasures ‘of progress towards the perfection of our nature.’120 In the Politics, Aristotle recalls that ‘the happy life is the life that is lived without impediment in accordance with virtue.’121
For sure, the variety of words that construct the Greek notions of freedom with the privative alpha seems to confirm the pars destruens122 of Benveniste’s argument on the origin of ancient European notions of freedom: the semantic plurality evoked by these terms cannot be simply traced back to the sense of being free from someone or something,123 as according to the notion of negative freedom.
In turn, the pars costruens of Benveniste’s contention, that is, his suggestion of an ethnic bond as the original locus of the free condition,124 clearly resonates with the Homeric use of the word eleutheron, and it is even better illustrated by the family of words compounded with the term isos, that is, equal.
Such compound words convey the various senses of sharing in a group: in turn, these senses construct freedom as a common entitlement. The Homeric lexicon includes several words that are construed with the prefix iso-: among them, the term ἰσόμορος125 [isomoros] is claimed by the god Poseidon to describe his right to an equal share with his brothers Zeus and Hades. This divine equality is then turned into a human impossibility by Solon.
In a revealing fragment, Solon qualifies his assertion of having given the land back to the Athenian people. This restitution does not involve in any way an equal distribution126: on the contrary, Solon associates in his disapproval the violence of the tyrant and the imposition upon the noble of ἰσομοιρία [isomoiria], that is, the equal sharing of the land with the base.127
In the sixth-century writings of Aëtius, Alcmaeon of Croton is reported to have used in the fifth century BCE the word ἰσονομία128 [isonomia], in order to illustrate the bodily balance between couples of powers such as moist and dry, cold and hot, and bitter and sweet. According to Alcmaeon, this balance is the condition for health.
As the term isonomia in Alcmaeon’s fragment may be a later addition by the scholiast, it is possible that Herodotus is the first to deploy this compound word, which he writes in its Ionic form ἰσονομίη129 [isonomiē]. The word is construed with the term νόμος [nomos], which we may translate as ‘law,’ though it covers a wider semantic area than the English term.
Pace Schmitt,130 only the word νομός131 [nomos] is attested in Homer, with the meaning of ‘shared pasture,’ according to the traditional custom of sharing grazing land.132 In its last occurrence in the Iliad, nomos undergoes a metaphorical shift, which seems to exploit its sharing in the semantic areas of growth and production: the phrase πολὺς νομός133 [polys nomos] may thus be rendered as ‘manifold pasture (of words).’ An otherwise undocumented shift from pastoral commons to land subdivisions may be the remote antecedent to Solon’s rejection of the even repartition of isomoiria, whose principle of equality is instead recovered as a shared political standing.
Isonomiē may be somewhat rendered as ‘equality of rights,’ and Herodotus uses it to describe a political arrangement alternative to monarchy.134 Herodotus probably coins also the term ἰσηγορίη135 [isēgoriē], which may be translated as equal right of speech – from ἀγορᾶσθαι [agorasthai], to speak in the assembly. He uses the term to depict the Athenian democracy.
The same Herodotus may have invented a third word, ἰσοκρατέες136 [isokratees], which in his Histories describes the equal power of women and men of the people of the Issedones. In the following book of the Histories, Herodotus probably also coins the abstract term ἰσοκρατία137 [isokratia], which his character, the Corinthian Socles, correlates with the deliberative assemblies that are threatened by the Spartans and their local allies.
Two other terms emerge in theatrical texts. Aeschylus, while providing a foundational narrative for the Athenian polis with his trilogy Oresteia, names the result of a deliberation as ἰσόψηφος138 [isopsēphos], that is, totalling the same amount of votes on both sides. The intervention of the chairperson Athena, the motherless goddess eponym and protector of the city, affirms then the rights of the matricide Orestes and of the new deliberative order against the traditional blood links. When Euripides writes the Phoenissae, the new order is already accepted wisdom, so that Jocasta can invite her son Eteocles to honour the goddess Ἰσότης139 [Isotēs], Equality, because τὸ ἴσον140 [to ison], the equal, to wit, equality, is naturally lasting among humans.
Since Homer, many compound words are construed with the already recalled term autos, which we may translate as ‘self’ or ‘the same.’ In particular, Herodotus probably also produces a combination that is most significant in regard to our enquiry, namely, the word αὐτόνομος141 [autonomos]. The term combines the prefix auto- with the word nomos, which, as we saw, in Herodotus’ time conveys the sense of acknowledged custom, and thus, law.
Herodotus uses the term autonomos twice, and in the plural form, in order to define people who break free from sovereign power in general in the first case,142 and from an external power in the second.143 This double sense is analogous to Herodotus’ double use of the word eleutheriē, which, as we saw, describes both the polis’ freedom from tyrannical rule and its independence from alien powers.
The relation of the polis with a major external power is at stake in Thucydides’ neologism αὐτονομία144 [autonomia]. Though Hobbes translates the word autonomia into English as ‘liberty’ tout-court,145 Thucydides appears to use it to define the position of the Greek poleis in relation to Athenian political control. More than that, the condition of autonomia assumes different senses depending on the context: it may be a unilateral claim liable of punishment from the perspective of Athens as hegemonic power,146 a claim that the Spartans encourage other poleis to pursue,147 or even a privilege obtained by Athenian concession, as happens to the city of Samos, after a successful concerted change of political regime.148
More generally, it is worth noticing that in Greek classical texts both words autonomos and autonomia are applied to collective entities and not to individuals. A notable exception underlines the unique condition of Antigone, whom the chorus of Sophocles’ eponymous tragedy describes as descending to Hades still alive and autonomos,149 that is, guided by her own moral rule.
Only in the writings of late Stoic authors do the words autonomos and autonomia come to be associated with individual freedom. In the first century, the freed slave Epictetus makes the term autonomos shift from a political to a natural attribute, as he applies it to animals too.150 His contemporary Dio Chrysostom takes a further step by turning the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus’ call for αὐτοπραγία151 [autopragia], that is, autonomous individual practice, into an appeal to the individual autonomy of the sage. According to Dio, even the wisest lawgiver cannot claim his [sic] autonomia,152 because he has to adapt to political necessity: ‘Indeed Solon himself, according to report, declared that he was proposing for the Athenians, not what satisfied himself, but rather what he assumed they would accept.’153 The individual sage can instead be properly autonomous, because he can live according to his own law, inasmuch as he follows the ordinance of Zeus, that is, the law of nature.154
I note here that such a convergence of individual choice and universal order will be variously re-enacted in the following centuries. However, its definition in terms of individual autonomy will only reappear in the late eighteenth century, when Kant will make his moral theory revolve around the notion of Autonomie des Willens,155 autonomy of the will.
In the meantime, Chrysippus seems also to introduce the term αὐτεξούσιος156 [autexousios], with the meaning of having free will: later on, Josephus gives the word a political sense too, and he probably derives from it the abstract term αὐτεξούσια157 [autexousia].
I will now go back in time again to follow a different path, which will trace first the Latin words liber, free, and libertas, liberty, and then, a constellation of Latin terms that describe specific freedoms. As compared with the previous enquiry on Greek terms, this path will be more openly conjectural, because Roman archaic and early Republican events are generally reported by rather late written sources.
As Benveniste underlines, the very term liber splits into a generic attribute and the name of the god Liber.158 Adrien Bruhl argues that Liber is an autochthonous deity of growth of vegetation, who only in later times specializes in viticulture, and is then identified as Bacchus/Dionysus.159 The semantic area of ‘growth’ likewise appears to connect vegetal and human stocks, so that the term comes to be used to describe a community of liberi as an ethnic group of free men, and also, by extension, of children as legitimate offspring.160
Already in the fifth century BCE, the difference between a Roman liber, that is, a free man, and a servus, that is, a slave, is clearly quantifiable: the eighth of the Twelve Tables, which pin down law in writing, decrees that an act of physical violence resulting in fractured bones requires a monetary compensation, which, at three hundred asses for a freeman, is double that for a slave.161
However, Liber and his female partner Libera also point to another social boundary, which divides the free population into patricians and plebeians. The Roman engineer and author Vitruvius takes as an architectural example the Roman temple of Ceres,162 Liber, and Libera or, according to Dionysus of Halicarnassus’ later attribution, of Demeter, Dionysus and Kore.163 The temple is erected in 493 BCE, probably on the slope of the Aventine hill,164 as a fulfilment of a vow for a military victory,165 and it somewhat assumes the role of a plebeian counterpart to the older sanctuaries that are devoted to the traditional Capitoline triad Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus.166
Moreover, a goddess too shares her name with the abstract term libertas: during the Second Punic War, at the end of the third century BCE, another temple is consecrated to Libertas on the Aventine Hill,167 which is an appropriate setting, considering its long history of association with the plebs. It is not surprising that the shrine soon takes a significant part in the confrontation between the tribunes of the plebs and the Senate, as it ends up hosting the census-tables.
At the same time, the poet Naevius links the celebrations of the god Liber to a temporary unrestrained condition that appears to unite all participants: ‘Libera lingua loquemur ludis Liberalibus,’168 we shall speak with a free tongue at the festival of Liber.169
In the first century, when Livy narrates the events of the Roman Republic, the claim of aequa libertas,170 that is, equitable freedom, seems to share with the definitions of aequum ius, equitable law, and aequae leges, equitable laws, the political meaning of the equal standing before the law of patricians and plebeians, regarded as groups and not as individuals.171
However, this later association of the term libertas with the fulfilment of plebeian demands172 seems to express a further shift of sense, which transcends the traditional divide between patricians and plebeians. This is probably not so much a representation of the legal and then practical overcoming of the obstacles to the plebeian access to public offices, but the effect of the substantial loss of meaning of the term libertas under Imperial rule.173
I will now consider a number of other Latin words, which produce less wide-ranging definitions of freedom either through the evocation of emptiness as the absence of constraints, or with the addition of the negative prefix in-, which in the Latin language has a similar function to the Greek privative alpha.
The former cluster includes the word licentia,174 whose semantic range goes from permission to dissolution; vacivitas,175 emptiness; and vacatio,176 freedom from service or duty; to the latter belongs the term impunitas,177 freedom from punishment; and immunitas,178 whose meaning of freedom or exemption from public services, burdens, or charges survives in the English word ‘immunity.’
Yet another negative construction of liberty is the word ‘securitas,’179 security. It literally means freedom from care or trouble, as it is derived through the adjective securus from the two words sine, without, and cura, care.
Our current progressive lexicon still relies on Latin technical terms that describe the passage from the enslaved condition to the superior status of freedom. The word ‘liberation’ literally repeats the act of liberare, to liberate from slavery; the even more precise term ‘emancipation’ retains the linguistic traces of the Latin term emancipatio, that is, enfranchisement,180 as the gesture of being released from the grip of the hand (ex manu capere).
The Greek emphasis on the capacity of not being subjected to someone else resonates with the Latin definition sui juris, literally of one’s own right, that is, having full legal capacity, as opposed to alieni juris, literally, of someone else’s right, that is, under the legal authority of another. This distinction appears in Gaius’ second-century law manual as a definition of the analogous unbalanced relations of master and slave, husband and wife, and father and children.181
In the phrase sui juris, sui is the genitive singular form of the word suus, which may be translated in English as ‘his’ or ‘one’s own.’ Yet, in another surviving fragment of the Twelve Tables, the word suus182 most probably is not deployed with a possessive function but to denote the group of sui (in the plural), that is, the direct descendants. Benveniste argues that such an archaic use of the word suus shows that the notion of self, and that one of freedom on which it is predicated, evolved from a social grounding.183
Whilst, as we saw, in Greece and Rome this social grounding finds expression in the collective category of free men, Germanic languages reveal a different path: as also witnessed by the German word frei,184 free, and its cognate freund, friend, Germanic languages produce the notion of free man as the effect of a relation of companionship. Hence, whilst the English word ‘freedom’ is nowadays interchangeable with the word ‘liberty,’ it traces quite a different semantic trajectory in time.185
However, the convergence of the two major morpho-semantic roots of our contemporary notion of freedom certainly owes a great deal to the Christian doctrine of individual salvation. In the next chapter, I will show how Christian thought works at decontextualizing both notions of individual and freedom by emphasising individual identity as centred on the soul, and on individual responsibility and will.
19 Iliad., 6.528.
20 Ibid., 6.463.
21 Jakobson describes the supposed significative and distinctive functions of language as metaphorical and metonymical poles respectively. See Roman Jakobson, ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,’ in Roman Jakobson and Morris Halle, Fundamentals of Language (The Hague: Mouton, 1956), 53–82.
22 Plato possibly invents the term γραμματική [grammatikē], that is, grammar: however, Plato may merely be writing words that are already in use. See Plato, Cratylus 431e; Sophist 253a.
23 On diairesis, that is division into two parts as methodos, pursuit and thus method, see Plato, Soph. 235b–c.
24 Ibid., 262a. In the first century, Plutarch, who is already used to our familiar plurality of grammatical entities, seeks to answer the question ‘why said Plato, that speech is composed of onomata and rhemata?’ In Plutarch, Moralia, Platonic Question X. Onomata and rhēmata are the plural form of onoma and rhēma respectively.
25 On the word xenos, see Émile Benveniste, Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, 2 vols (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1969), vol. 1, 94. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European Language and Society (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 77.
26 τὸ μὲν ἐπὶ ταῖς πράξεσιν ὂν δήλωμα ῥῆμά που λέγομεν (. . .) τὸ δέ γ᾽ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἐκείνας πράττουσι σημεῖον τῆς φωνῆς ἐπιτεθὲν ὄνομα [to men epi tais praxesin on dēlōma rhēma pou legomen (. . .) to de g’ ep’ autois tois ekeinas prattousi sēmeion tēs phōnēs epitethen onoma]. In Plato, Soph. 262a.
27 Archilochus, fr. 52 (Diehl).
28 Theognis, 1152; 1238b (Diehl).
29 Whilst Plato does not further specify the association of rhēma with actions, Aristotle limits it to actions in the present, and he recurs to the compound definition πτῶσις ῥήματος [ptōsis rhēmatos], tense of the verb, for actions in other times. In Aristotle, De Interpretatione 16b.
30 Il. 3.235; 17.260.
31 Plato, Cra. 399b.
32 Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.2.9.
33 Aristotle uses the expression τὰ ἐπίθετα [ta epitheta] in its etymological meaning of ‘added things’ in Constitution of the Athenians 3.3.
34 ‘[E]t illi adiectiua tantum dicunt ea quae aliis, id est substantiuis, per se adiunguntur,’ and they [the grammarians] call adjectives those items that are adjoined to other nouns, the substantives, in Abelard, Glossae super Peri Hermeneias 5.78.
35 The distinction is clearly stated, among others, by Aquinas: ‘haec est differentia inter nomina substantiva et adiectiva, quia nomina substantiva ferunt suum suppositum, adiectiva vero non, sed rem significatam ponunt circa substantivum,’ this is the difference between substantives and adjectives: substantives bear their suppositum, while adjectives do not, but rather they adjoin the signified thing to the substantive. In Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 1.39.5 ad 5.
36 Historicism’s diachronic differentiation overcomes the crude rendering of the past as a present in different clothes, as it were: nevertheless, given the inevitability and the variety of our retrospective projections, we would better accept as a theoretical horizon the actual plurality of diachronic constructions, rather than iterating the historicist aspiration to a potentially objective history. Historians may have dreamed of history in the singular, but they always produced histories in the plural.
37 Eliot claims that the expression of an emotion in the form of art requires an objective correlative, that is ‘a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion.’ In T. S. Eliot, ‘Hamlet and His Problems,’ in id., The Sacred Wood (London: Methuen & Co., 1920), 92. We may consider Homer’s krater as an objective correlative to the condition of freedom, inasmuch as it evokes the latter’s celebration.
38 Benveniste insists on the social origin of the notion of ‘free’: ‘The first sense is not, as one would be tempted to imagine, ‘to be free of, rid of something’; it is that of belonging to an ethnic stock designated by a metaphor taken from vegetable growth.’ In Benveniste, Vocabulaire 1, 324. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 264.
39 Before the Homeric epic, a probable predecessor of the Greek word eleutheron is found in Minoan tablets: for example, in several Na- tablets of the series of Pylos, the word e-re-u-te-ra, possibly the neuter plural form of e-re-u-te-ro, is likewise associated with the ideogram sa denoting an object (probably flax), and it is translated by Ventris and Chadwick as ‘free allowance.’ In Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek: Three Hundred Selected Tablets from Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae, with Commentary and Vocabulary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956), 299. The term ereutero may ‒ but also may not ‒ relate to humans with a metaphorical shift. See Filippo Cassola, ‘ Ἐλεύθερον ‒ EREUTERO,’ in Syntheleia Arangio Ruiz (Napoli: Jovene, 1964). However, the morphological similarity does not imply an unbroken semantic continuity.
40 We may compare the position of Briseis with Agamemnon’s treatment of Chryseis, which then triggers Apollo’s wrath.
41 (. . .) Γῆ μέλαινα, τῆς ἐγώ ποτε / ὅρους ἀνεῖλον πολλαχῇ πεπηγότας / πρόσθεν δὲ δουλεύουσα, νῦν ἐλευθέρα [Gē melaina, tēs egō pote / horous aneilon pollakhē pepēgotas / prosthen de douleuousa, nyn eleuthera], the black Earth, from which once I removed many implanted boundary-posts, once a slave, now free. Quoted in Aristotle, Const. Ath. 12.4.
42 Solon hints at his economico-political reform, the σεισάχθεια [seisakhtheia] or shaking off of burdens, around 594 BCE. See Aristotle, Const. Ath. 6.1.
43 Ibid., 12.4.
44 (. . .) ἰατὰ δ᾽ ἔστι βροτοῖς σύν γ᾽ἐλευθερίᾳ / καὶ τά [iata d’esti brotois syn g’eleutheria / kai ta], it happens to the mortals that these things too (are) healed with freedom. In Pindar, Isthmian 8 15–16. The word eleutheria is in the dative case. Patterson suggests that Pindar here consoles himself for the siding of his native Thebes with the Persian invader. In Orlando Patterson, Freedom, Vol. 1: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (London: Tauris & Co., 1991), 85.
45 Ionic, Aeolic, Dorian, and Attic are the main variants of Classical Greek language.
46 Anthologia Palatina 7.253.
47 Pausanias 9.2.5.
48 τῷ πόλιν κείναν θεοδμάτῳ σὺν ἐλευθερίᾳ / Ὑλλίδος στάθμας Ἱέρων ἐν νόμοις ἔκτισσ᾽. (. . .) [tō polin keinan theodmatō syn eleutheria / Hyllidos stathmas Hierōn en nomois ektiss’], for whom [Deinomenes] Hieron founded that city with divinely fashioned freedom, in accordance with the laws of the rule of Hyllus. Pythian 1, 61–62. Hyllus is the son of Herakles and mythical ancestors of the Dorians, to which both Sparta and Pindar’s aristocratic Boeotian family belong.
49 θεοδμήτων ἐπὶ πύργων [theodmētōn epi pyrgōn], on the god-built city walls, in Il. 8.519.
50 Pindar’s dialect is actually a literary product that combines the language of epic with Doric and Aeolic elements. In several cases, the Doric ᾱ [ā] substitutes the Epic and Attic η [ē].
51 Pindar may even play on the ambiguity of eleutheria’s reference to both freedom from an external power (the Carthaginians just defeated by Hieron), and freedom granted by the oligarchic constitution from the unrestrained power of the tyrant (in this case, a veiled exhortation to Hieron).
52 Herodotus’ mention (3.142) of the erection of an altar to Zeus Eleutherios in Samos shortly after 522 BCE is highly questionable.
53 λίσσομαι, παῖ Ζηνὸς Ἐλευθερίου, / Ἱμέραν εὐρυσθενέ᾽ ἀμφιπόλει, σώτειρα Τύχα [lissomai, pai Zēnos Eleutheriou, / Himeran eurysthene᾽ amphipolei, sōteira Tykha], I pray you, saviour Fortune, daughter of Zeus Eleutherios, that you watch and maintain powerful Himera. In Olympian 12 1–2. The ode focuses on the unexpected turn of chance that led its addressee Ergoteles from Crete to Sicily, and to the victory at the Olympian games.
54 See, for example, the inscription on the altar to Zeus Eleutherios at Plataea, which is likewise doubtfully ascribed to Simonides, in Anthologia Palatina 6.50.
55 Unlike his contemporary rival Simonides, Pindar subjects even chance to the new order of Zeus.
56 Hdt. 1.62; 1.95; 1.170; 2.102; 3.82; 3.142; 4.133; 5.2; 6.5; 7.2; 7.135; 7.147; 8.143; 9.41; 9.98.
57 Ibid., 1.95; 1.170; 2.102; 3.82; 4.133; 5.2; 7.2; 7.147; 8.143; 9.41; 9.98.
58 Ibid., 1.62; 3.142; 6.5; 7.135. In 7.135, the Spartan characters link their fight for self-determination against the Persians with their condition as free citizens.
59 Ibid., 7.103.
60 Euripides, Suppliants 438.
61 Hdt. 1.116. The superlative form ἐλευθερωτάτη [eleutherōtatē], the freest, is to become a trope of Athenian rhetoric, as an antonomastic evocation of Athens. See Nicia’s speech in Thucydides 7.69.
62 In the Homeric text, the word kratos has both a comparative (superiority) and absolute (power) meaning. See Benveniste, Vocabulaire 2, 71–83. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 357–367.
63 ἐλεύθερος γὰρ οὔτις ἐστὶ πλὴν Διός [eleutheros gar outis esti plēn Dios]. In Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 50. Kratos operates according to Zeus’ power, which is the norm and the expression of Zeus’ new divine order.
64 Sophocles, fr. 940, in Stobaeus, Anthologium 4.19.33 (Wachsmuth-Hense).
65 ἐλευθερίας ἡ πόλις μεστὴ καὶ παρρησίας γίγνεται [eleutherias hē polis mestē kai parrhēsias gignetai], the city becomes full of liberty and freedom of speech. In Plato, Republic 8.557b.
66 Ibid., 8.558c. The alliteration underlines Plato’s dismissal of freedom, which is rhetorically crafted as the ironical ascertainment of freedom’s somewhat faulty logic.
67 Ibid., 395c. Already in Timaeus 28a Plato turns the word dēmiourgos, artisan, into the definition of his world maker: in Republic 3.395c the use of the word is further shifted towards an immaterial production, in which the guardians can be involved because they are released from all other productions. We may also notice Plato’s wordplay that endows the class of the rulers with a function that bears the name of the lowest class, namely that of the producers (dēmiourgoi).
68 δημοκρατουμένη πόλις ἐλευθερίας διψήσασα [dēmokratoumenē polis eleutherias dipsēsasa], ibid., 8.562c.
69 ἐπὶ πᾶν τὸ τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἰέναι [epi pan to tēs eleutherias ienai], ibid., 8.562e.
70 Ibid., 8.562e–563b.
71 Though the Platonic psykhē, through its Latin translation as anima, is traditionally rendered with the English word ‘soul,’ it rather gathers various and differently located bodily functions.
72 Ibid., 439d.
73 Ibid., 439e.
74 Ibid., 440e.
75 Ibid., 439d.
76 Ibid., 339c.
77 Ibid., 398b.
78 Ibid., 340e.
79 τῷ ἀνίσῳ συμμέτρῳ [tō anisō symmetrō], in Plato, Laws 5.744c.
80 ἓν δὲ τὸ ζῆν ὡς βούλεταί τις. τοῦτο γὰρ τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἔργον εἶναί φασιν [hen de to zēn hōs bouletai tis: touto gar tēs eleutherias ergon einai phasin], and one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty. In Aristotle, Politics, 6.1317b 11–13.
81 The word dēmokratia is first attested in Hdt. 6.43, where it is used to describe Otanes’ proposal. For the association of eleutheria and dēmokratia, see Aristotle, Pol. 5.1310a.
82 Aristotle specifies that there are several kinds of democratic constitutions, and the access to government of free citizens may also be partially restricted.
83 Aristotle, Pol. 1253b.
84 Also the constitutively unbalanced homosexual relation between free men is somewhat reversible, as the younger lover will exert a dominant role over a younger partner in due time.
85 Aristotle, Pol. 1260a. Aristotle gives an extended definition of bouleutikon in Eudemian Ethics 1226b.
86 The term used by Aristotle, ἄκυρος [akyros], is but an astonishing tautology: a-kyros, without authority.
87 ἐν ταύτῃ γάρ ἐστι φύσει τὸ μὲν ἄρχον τὸ δ᾽ ἀρχόμενον [en tautē gar esti physei to men arkhon to d’ arkhomenon]. In Pol. 1260a. Aristotle develops a more complex threefold model of psykhē in his De Anima.
88 See, for example, W. E. H. Stanner, ‘The Dreaming,’ in T. A. G. Hungerford ed., Australian Signpost: An Anthology (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1956), 51–65.
89 τοῦτο ἐκ τῆς ἁπάσης φύσεως ἐνυπάρχει τοῖς ἐμψύχοις: καὶ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς μὴ μετέχουσι ζωῆς ἔστι τις ἀρχή, οἷον ἁρμονίας [touto ek tēs hapasēs physeōs enyparkhei tois empsykhois: kai gar en tois mē metekhousi zōēs esti tis arkhē, hoion harmonias], in Aristotle, Pol. 1254a.
90 τὸ δὲ ζῷον πρῶτον συνέστηκεν ἐκ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος, ὧν τὸ μὲν ἄρχον ἐστὶ φύσει τὸ δ᾽ ἀρχόμενον [to de zōon prōton synestēken ek psykhēs kai sōmatos, hōn to men arkhon esti physei to d’arkhomenon], ibid.
91 For example, in Alcibiades 1 130a.
92 See supra, note 23.
93 διὸ ὁ μὲν δεσπότης τοῦ δούλου δεσπότης μόνον, ἐκείνου δ᾽ οὐκ ἔστιν: ὁ δὲ δοῦλος οὐ μόνον δεσπότου δοῦλός ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅλως ἐκείνου [dio ho men despotēs tou doulou despotēs monon, ekeinou d’ouk estin: ho de doulos ou monon despotou doulos estin, alla kai holōs ekeinou]. In Aristotle, Pol. 1254a.
94 τὸ δὲ κτῆμα λέγεται ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ μόριον. τό γὰρ μόριον οὐ μόνον ἄλλου ἐστὶ μόριον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἁπλῶς ἄλλου: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τὸ κτῆμα [to de ktēma legetai hōsper kai to morion. to gar morion ou monon allou esti morion, alla kai haplōs allou: homoiōs de kai to ktēma], and the term ‘article of property’ is used in the same way as the term ‘part’: a thing that is a part is not only a part of another thing but absolutely belongs to another thing, and so also does an article of property, ibid.
95 The tree-shaped iteration of the relation of inclusion is then to influence the principled structures of medieval legal texts, which in turn are to be the model for Western treatises in general.
96 Aristotle, Pol. 1317b.
97 The verb paskhein appears several times in the Iliad with the meaning of ‘suffering’: in Odyssey 8.490 it is paired with the verb ἔρδειν [erdein] in the phrase ἔρξαν τ᾽ ἔπαθόν τε [erxan t’ epathon te], (they) both did and suffered. Herodotus not only deploys the Homeric couple ἔρξαν ἢ ἔπαθον [erxan ē epathon], (they) did or suffered (5.65), but he also makes Xerxes evoke the alternative choice between ποιέειν ἢ παθεῖν [poieein ē pathein], do or suffer (7.11): pathein is a form ‒ the aorist infinitive ‒ of the verb paskhein. Aristotle then often uses paskhein as a passive form of poiein: for example, in De Generatione et Corruptione 322b7; Categories 1b–2a; Metaphysics 1017a26; De Anima 429b; Physics 225b13.
98 ἔτι ὅσαι ἕξεις καθ᾽ ἃς ἀπαθῆ ὅλως ἢ ἀμετάβλητα ἢ μὴ ῥᾳδίως ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον εὐμετακίνητα, δυνάμεις λέγονται [eti hosai hexeis kath’has apathē holōs ē ametablēta ē mē rhadiōs epi to kheiron eumetakinēta, dynameis legontai], all states in virtue of which things are unaffected generally, or are unchangeable, or cannot readily deteriorate, are called potencies. In Aristotle, Met. 1019a. See instead Plato, Soph. 247d–e, where dynamis defines both the capacity to affect and the capacity to be affected. As previously recalled, the ability not to be affected is the essential criterion for the Aristotelian hierarchization of both the human and the non-human world.
99 Immanuel Kant makes use of the notions of negative, negative and positive, positive freedom in his Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, in id., Gesammelte Schriften (Akademie Ausgabe, hereinafter AA), Band 4, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Reimer, 1911), 446. Eng. trans. id., Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Mary Gregor ed. and trans. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 52. Isaiah Berlin later popularizes these twin notions in the Anglophone world. See id., Two Concepts of Liberty (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958).
100 Aristotle still describes the skills of soldiers as the ability to ποιῆσαι καὶ μὴ παθεῖν [poiēsai kai mē pathein], do and not suffer (harm). In Nicomachean Ethics 1116b.
101 πολλοῖσι δούλοις τοὔνομ᾿ αἰσχρόν, ἡ δὲ φρὴν τῶν οὐχὶ δούλων ἔστ᾿ ἐλευθερωτέρα [polloisi doulois tounom’ aiskhron, hē de phrēn tōn oukhi doulōn est’ eleutherōtera], for many slaves their name is a thing of shame, but their soul is freer than that of a non-slave. In Stobaeus, Anthologium 4.19.39 (Wachsmuth-Hense).
102 οἱ ἀγαθοὶ οἰκέται ἐλεύθεροι, οἱ πονηροὶ ἐλεύθεροι δοῦλοι πολλῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν [hoi agathoi oiketai eleutheroi, hoi ponēroi eleutheroi douloi pollōn epithymiōn]. Bion of Borysthenes (c. 325 – c. 250 BCE), in Stobaeus, Anthologium 4.19.42 (Wachsmuth-Hense), my italics.
103 Stoic writers borrow from Cynic Diogenes the term κοσμοπολίτης [kosmopolitēs], citizen of the world. In Diogenes Laërtius, 6.63.
104 See, for example, the Homeric alliterative and paratactic sequence ἀφρήτωρ ἀθέμιστος ἀνέστιός [aphrētōr athemistos anestios], clanless, lawless, hearthless, in Il. 9.63.
105 Ibid., 18.536.
106 Thuc. 7.69.
107 Ibid., 2.80.
108 Ibid., 1.18.
109 Philo, ‘Concerning Noah’s work as a planter’ (De Plantatione) 53; ‘On dreams, that they are God-sent’ (De Somniis) 2.286.
110 Il. 2.703.
111 Aeschylus, Suppliants 514.
112 Ibid., 906.
113 Hdt. 3.80.
114 Aristophanes, Wasps 587.
115 Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 733.
116 Euripides, Electra 379.
117 Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 666.
118 Euripides first uses the word parrhēsia in the tragedy Hippolytus (line 424), together with the term eleutheroi, free (in the plural), as opposed to the metaphorical slavery to which one is subjected because of the wrongdoings of one’s parents. For Plato’s ironic use of the term parrhēsia, see supra, note 65.
119 Theophrastus, fr. 103.
120 τῶν εἰς τὴν τελέωσιν ἀγομένων τῆς φύσεως [tōn eis tēn teleōsin agomenōn tēs physeōs], in Aristotle, Nic. Eth. 1153a.
121 τὸ τὸν εὐδαίμονα βίον εἶναι τὸν κατ᾽ ἀρετὴν ἀνεμπόδιστον [to ton eudaimona bion einai ton kat’ aretēn anempodiston], in Aristotle, Pol. 1295a.
122 Bacon describes the destructive and constructive parts of his philosophy as pars destruens and pars costruens respectively. See Francis Bacon, Novum Organum Scientiarum (London: John Bill, 1620).
123 Benveniste, Vocabulaire I, 324. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 264.
124 Ibid. Eng. trans. ibid.
125 Il. 15.209.
126 (. . .) οὐδὲ πιείρας χθονὸς / πατρίδος κακοῖσιν ἐσθλοὺς ἰσομοιρίαν ἔχειν [oude pieiras khthonos / patridos kakoisin esthlous isomoirian ekhein], nor [it pleased me] that the nobles had an equal share of the fertile soil of the fatherland with the base. Fr. 23 Diehl, fr. 34 West, quoted in Aristotle, Const. Ath. 12.3.
127 Aristotle expands this argument in Politics 1281a19–20: πάντων ληφθέντων, οἱ πλείους τὰ τῶν ἐλαττόνων ἂν διανέμωνται, φανερὸν ὅτι φθείρουσι τὴν πόλιν. ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐχ ἥ γ᾽ ἀρετὴ φθείρει τὸ ἔχον αὐτήν, οὐδὲ τὸ δίκαιον πόλεως φθαρτικόν: ὥστε δῆλον ὅτι καὶ τὸν νόμον τοῦτον οὐχ οἷόν τ᾽ εἶναι δίκαιον [pantōn lēphthentōn, hoi pleious ta tōn elattonōn an dianemōntai, phaneron hoti phtheirousi tēn polin. alla mēn oukh hē g᾽ aretē phtheirei to ekhon autēn, oude to dikaion poleōs phthartikon: hōste dēlon hoti kai ton nomon touton oukh hoion t᾽ einai dikaion], when everybody is taken into account, suppose the majority share out among themselves the property of the minority, it is manifest that they are destroying the city; but assuredly virtue does not destroy its possessor, and justice is not destructive of the city, so that it is clear that this principle also cannot be just.
128 Alcmaeon, fr. 24 B4 Diels-Kranz.
129 Hdt. 3.80; 3.83; 3.142; 5.37. Despite the absence of evidence, Raaflaub suggests that the term may have originated much earlier, as ‘an ideal and catchword in the aristocracy’s struggle against the tyrant’s usurpation of power.’ In Kurt Raaflaub, The Discovery of Freedom in Ancient Greece, Renate Franciscono trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 94.
130 Carl Schmitt locates at the very beginning of the Odyssey the word νόμος [nomos] (to which he also ascribes a supposed original sense of the spatial ordering of measurement) by relying on Zenodotus’ unlikely correction of the word νόος [noos] ‒ inasmuch as different from the Attic form νοῦς [nous], that is, mind, or better, thinking and perceiving agent ‒ as nomos, in Od. 1.3. In Carl Schmitt, Der Nomos der Erde im Völkerrecht des Jus Publicum Europaeum (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1950), 46; Eng. trans. id., The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen trans. (New York: Telos Press, 2006), 76.
131 Il. 2.475; 6.511; 15.268; 18.575; 18.587; 20.249. Od. 9.217; 10.159.
132 ‘Le pâturage des temps archaïques est en general un espace illimité,’ in general, the pasture of archaic times is an unlimited space. In Emmanuel Laroche, Histoire de la Racine NEM- en Grec Ancien (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1949), 116.
133 Il. 20.249.
134 In Herodotus’ narration, the Persian nobleman Otanes clearly states the motivation for his proposal of isonomiē: οὔτε γὰρ ἄρχειν οὔτε ἄρχεσθαι ἐθέλω [oute gar arkhein oute arkhesthai ethelō], I neither want to rule nor to be ruled (3.83). As Berlin puts it, this is ‘the exact opposite of Aristotle’s notion of true civic liberty.’ In Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), XLI.
135 Hdt. 5.78. In Attic Greek, ἰσηγορία [isēgoria].
136 Plural feminine nominative form of ἰσοκρατής [isokratēs], having equal power. Ibid., 4.26.
137 Ibid., 5.92.
138 Aeschylus, Eumenides 741.
139 Euripides, Phoenissae 536.
140 Ibid., 538.
141 Hdt. 1.96; 8.140.
142 Ibid., 1.96.
143 Ibid., 8.140.
144 Thuc. 3.46.5; 4.87.5; 8.21.1.
145 See Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Thomas Hobbes trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).
146 Thuc. 3.46.5.
147 Ibid., 4.87.5.
148 Ibid., 8.21.1. Bickerman and Ostwald compare the notion of eleutheria with that of autonomia, which they both construct as more limited than the former, because of its relation to a stronger power. See Elias Bickerman, ‘Autonomia. Sur un passage de Thucydide (I,144,2),’ Revue Internationale des Droits de I’Antiquité 5(1958), 313–344; Martin Ostwald, Autonomia: Its Genesis and Early History (New York: Scholars Press, 1982).
149 Sophocles, Antigone 821. I owe Davide Tarizzo (and possibly, Lacan) this quote, which made me suspect the presence of other exceptions. So far, I have found two early non-political occurrences of the terms autonomos and autonomia: Xenophon (Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 3.1) praises the Spartan Lycurgus for not letting Spartan boys be autonomo[i], that is, free from their tutors’ oversight; on the contrary, Isocrates blames the very Spartan boys’ autonomi[a] (Panathenaic Oration 12.215), which he associates with the encouragement that they receive to steal from non-Spartans, provided that they can go undetected (12.211–212).
150 οὕτως ὀρέγεται τῆς φυσικῆς ἐλευθερίας καὶ τοῦ αὐτόνομα καὶ ἀκώλυτα εἶναι [houtōs oregetai tēs physikēs eleutherias kai tou autonoma kai akōlyta einai], so much do they [the animals] desire their natural liberty, and to be autonomous and unhindered. In Epictetus, Discourses 4.1.27.
151 See Plutarch, ‘On Stoic Self-Contradictions’ (De Stoicorum repugnantiis) 20.
152 δῆλον οὖν ὅτι τούτων μὲν οὐδενὶ μετῆν αὐτονομίας [dēlon oun hoti toutōn men oudeni metēn autonomias], evidently, no one of these [lawgivers] had a claim to autonomy. In Dio Chrysostom, Orationes 63.4.
153 Σόλωνα μέντοι καὶ αὐτὸν εἰρηκέναι φασὶν ὡς αὑτῷ μὴ ἀρέσκοντα εἰσηγεῖτο Ἀθηναίοις, ἀλλ’ οἷς αὐτοὺς ὑπελάμβανε χρήσεσθαι [Solōna mentoi kai auton eirēkenai phasin hōs hautō mē areskonta eisēgeito Athēnaiois, all’ hois autous hypelambane khrēsesthai]. Ibid., 3.
154 τῆς φύσεως νόμος [tēs physeōs nomos], ibid., 5. Whilst Dio is generally associated with the Second Sophistic, in this text he shares with Stoic authors the notion of the necessary convergence of individual will towards natural law.
155 Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, AA 4, 433.
156 ποιῶν καὶ τὸ αὐτεξούσιον μετὰ τῆς ἀνάγκης [poiōn kai to autexousion meta tēs anagkēs], acting out also the freedom of choice along with necessity, Chrysippus, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta 2.975. The epithet ἐξούσιος [exousios] and the noun ἐξουσία [exousia] seem to be Thucydidean coinages (see, for example, 1.38), which cover the semantic range from undue license to right: the Platonic Socrates plays on this ambiguity when he sarcastically evokes the ἐξουσία τοῦ λέγειν [exousia tou legein], license to speak of Athenian citizens, in Gorgias 461e.
157 Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico 2.134. Josephus uses the term to underline two exceptions to the otherwise disciplined behaviour of the Essenes.
158 Benveniste, Vocabulaire 1, 322. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 263. Actually, a third use of the word liber relates to the inner bark or rind of a tree, especially in its use as a writing support: the term then comes to identify both a division of a written text, and a book tout court.
159 See Adrien Bruhl, Liber Pater. Origine et expansion du culte dionisiaque à Rome et dans le monde Romain (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1953).
160 In the Roman ancient marriage formula, the father of the bride addresses the future husband with the words ‘liber(or)um quaesundum causa (or gratia),’ to obtain legitimate children.
161 ‘MANU FUSTIVE SI OS FREGIT LIBERO, CCC, [SI] SERVO, CL POENAM SUBITO.’ In Carl Georg Bruns, Fontes Iuris Romani Antiqui (Freiburg: Mohr, 1887), 28.
162 Vitruvius, De architectura 3.3.
163 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae 6.94.
164 Alfred Merlin, L’Aventin dans l’Antiquité (Paris: Fontemoing, 1906), 94.
165 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae 6.94.
166 The Aventine Hill, which the 493 BCE Lex Icilia de Auentino publicando subdivides into small plots for the plebeians, may be considered as the counterpart to the patrician Palatine Hill.
167 Livy 24.16.
168 Wallace Martin Lindsay ed., Sexti Pompei Festi De verborum significatu quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome (Leipzig: Teubner, 1913), 103.
169 This eulogy of unrestrained behaviour is paradoxically expressed with a chain of alliterations.
170 Livy 4.5.
171 Apparently, the only two applications of the notion of aequa libertas to individuals are attested in Terence’s recasting of Menander in Adelphoe 2.1.29, and in Quintilian, Declamatio 301.
172 See, for example, Livy’s depiction of the institute of provocatio, the appeal to the people’s assembly to contest capital punishment, as unicum praesidium libertatis, the only stronghold of freedom, in 3.55.
173 When Augustus claims in his Res Gestae ‘rem publicam (. . .) in libertatem vindicavi,’ he just deploys a standard expression, which Wirszubski renders as ‘I worked for the public good.’ In Charles Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome During the Late Republic and the Principate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), 116.
174 From the Latin verb liceo. See Plautus, Trinummus 4.3.27.
175 Plautus Curculio 2, 3, 40.
176 Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico 6.14.
177 Ibid., 1.14. As adverb impūne (archaic orthography impœne), see Plautus, Mostellaria 5.2.59.
178 Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico 6.14. As adjective immunis, see Plautus, Trinummus 2.2.75.
179 Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.18.
180 The word mancipium, ‘taking by hand,’ defined the taking possession of a purchase: conversely, according to the Twelve Tables, the enfranchisement of the son from paternal authority was performed as a triple act of selling: ‘si pater filium ter venum duit, filius a patre liber esto.’ If the father sells the son three times, be the son freed from the father. Quoted in Gaius 1.132.
181 ‘Nam quaedam personae sui iuris sunt, quaedam alieno iuri sunt subiectae.’ For some persons have jurisdiction upon themselves, and some are subjected to the jurisdiction of others. Ibid., 1.48.
182 ‘Si intestato moritur, cui suus heres nec escit, adgnatus proximus familiam habeto,’ if a man dies intestate, and if he has no heir who is a suus [that is to say, one of the closed group of immediate descendants], the nearest [male] agnate kinsman shall inherit. In Ulpian, Regulae 26.1.
183 Benveniste, Vocabulaire I, 333. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 272.
184 Supposedly derived from the proto-Germanic term *frija, from the supposed Indo-European term *pryos.
185 See Benveniste, Vocabulaire 1, 327. Eng. trans. id., Indo-European, 267. See also Richard Broxton Onians, The Origins of European Thought: About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951).
How to cite this book chapter:
Baldissone, R 2018 Farewell to Freedom: A Western Genealogy of Liberty. Pp. 1–35. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book15.a. License: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0