New Course: Citizen and City-State

I’m excited to be teaching a new course this semester. It’s titled Citizen and City-State: The Origins of Political Thought (HIST 1139). Here’s the course description:

Course Description: Ancient Greece was home to the world’s first direct democracies. In classical Athens, popular participation also went hand in hand with war and imperialism: citizens came together to constitute the state and decide on matters of power, legitimacy, and justice. Two and a half millennia later, modern political thought still traces its intellectual roots to these debates. This class explores the origins and development of political thought in ancient Greece, in authors such as Homer, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Plato, and Aristotle. We will read portions of their work, in translation, and discuss the historical background. Topics will include: political duty, citizenship, and leadership; Athenian democracy and political dissent; theories of law, justice, authority, and the state.

Society for Classical Studies Paper

Title: The Imperial Shuffle: Markets and Land Allotment on the Syracusan Frontier.

147th Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, San Francisco, CA, January 6-9.

Paper Session: “Money Matters.”

Abstract: This paper argues for a systemic and comparative approach to Syracusan imperialism in Sicily during the first generation of the Second Greco-Punic War, c. 410-380 BC. Like fifth-century Athens and Rome in the mid-Republic, the Syracusans were fairly unique in the pre-modern world in how they sought to balance the internal division of benefits with external predation. Above all, the allotment of confiscated land (klēroi) was the most common way for ancient Mediterranean states to divide the fruits of empire—it was the shared imperial practice among Greco-Roman city-states in the process of becoming territorial empires. But unlike their imperial neighbors, I argue that the Syracusans in the fifth and early fourth centuries tended to use land allotment to shuffle and reorganize Sicilian populations to speed up economic development back at Syracuse. Confronted by the systemic conditions of eastern Sicily, the Syracusans disrupted local markets by relocating defeated elite populations back to Syracuse with full citizenship, and then allotted their land to mercenaries or foreign allies to form new communities on the frontier.

In recent years, Demand (1990), Vattuone (1994), Giuliani (1995), Lomas (2006) have all looked to the forced urban relocations and subsequent allotment of land in Magna Graecia under Dionysios I to show the extent of Syracusan expansion and the fluidity of Sicilian citizenship. None of the studies, however, have developed how the Syracusans’ approach to imperial territoriality affected regional markets. In light of recent trends in global imperial history (e.g., Abernethy 2002; Morris and Scheidel 2009), this paper explores the dynamics of the Syracusans’ fourth-century empire by linking imperial land allotment to a new sensitivity for how empire-building was also a social phenomenon in frontier regions. It demonstrates the importance of a comparative perspective to imperial territoriality and draws wider conclusions about our understanding of Syracusan imperialism.

My study develops through three sections. First, I look to the case of Leontinoi c. 403 to illustrate broader trends in Syracusan land allotment. The literary (e.g., Diod. 12.54; 14.15; 14.78) and archaeological (e.g., Scerra 2003; Frasca 2009) evidence at Leontinoi suggest that the relocation of the city’s wealthy elite back to Syracuse significantly disrupted local economic networks to the advantage of Syracusan markets. Though Dionysios later divided up the land in 396 among his mercenaries as payment for their service, stability on the frontier was secondary to the economic benefits of increasing the entrepreneuring population back at Syracuse.

Second, I look to structural trends in eastern Sicily that developed during the fifth century to explain the Syracusans’ approach to imperial territoriality. In this pre-history to Syracuse’s fourth-century empire, I look to archaeological evidence to show that two processes preconditioned how the Syracusans thought about land allotment: social fragmentation at Syracuse (e.g., Jackman 2005) and regional economic competition (e.g., Prag 2010; Pilkington 2013). As a result, the trajectory of Syracusan state-formation during the fifth century created a distinctive approach to frontier regions that put a premium on extracting human capital back to Syracuse.

Finally, I turn to Syracuse’s broader Mediterranean context to briefly compare Syracusan land allotment to similar processes among the Athenians (in mid-fifth century Euboea) and the Romans (in fourth-century Latium). By emphasizing the particularities of each imperial repertoire, I distinguish between what was peculiar about of the klēros in Syracusan society and also how Mediterranean conditions created similar problems that each state had to find solutions for.

Such an approach accounts for why the Syracusans, relative to their Mediterranean counterparts, tended to allot confiscated land to mercenaries and allies after removing the local elite population back to Syracuse. Though the new communities of mercenaries and allies provided stability on the frontier, they had very weak social links to Syracuse and did not require any reduction in Syracuse’s urban population. Therefore, Syracusan land allotment was not a story just about tyrants (Sanders 1987; Péré-Noguès 2006) in a Near-Eastern mold of authoritarianism (Morris 2010), but also one of shifting markets in distinctly Sicilian conditions.

New Courses

I have two new courses in the works for 2015-16 academic year. The first course will be looking at how and why empires formed in the ancient Mediterranean world, with an emphasis on state-formation and non-literary sources. The second course be a survey of the origins of political thought in ancient Greece, from Homer to Aristotle. We will be looking at a variety texts, some of which are self-consciously philosophical (Aristotle and Plato), others more historical (Herodotus and Thucydides), popular (Aeschylus and Aristophanes), and political (Ps-Xenophon, Isocrates, and Demosthenes).

2015. Imperial Transitions in the Ancient Mediterranean World (HIST 1104), First Year Writing Seminar, Department of History, Cornell University, Fall Semester [ scheduled].

Course Description: The ancient Mediterranean world was home to some of the world’s most famous empires: Achaemenid Persia, Athens, Macedonia, and Rome. Renowned for their cultural and intellectual achievements, each state pursued policies that brought their citizens and subjects into a war of some kind almost every year. Through comparative history, this course will explore how, and why, all four empires rose and fell in succession. It will focus on the expansion and breakdown of empires, based on material culture and literary sources including the Behistun inscription, Herodotus, Thucydides, Arrian, Polybius, Caesar, and Livy. By engaging directly with the ancient sources, writing assignments will explore theories of imperialism, political and military institutions, approaches to state formation, relationships with subject peoples, the strains of war on society, and how empires interact with one another.

2016. Citizen and City State: The Origins of Political Thought (HIST 11xx), First Year Writing Seminar, Department of History, Cornell University, Spring Semester [scheduled].

Res Gestae (mini) Conference

We’re putting on a (mini) conference in a few weeks to discuss Cornell’s Res Gestae squeezes, the digitization process, and possibilities for future research and teaching. The workshop is titled “The Cornell Expedition, 1907-1908: Deep Past and Digital Futures.”

Cornell Expedition JPG

Monumentum Ancyranum Squeezes: The Res Gestae

Over the last handful of months, I’ve been working with Profs. Eric Rebillard and Ben Anderson to digitize Cornell’s collection of Res Gestae squeezes from the 1907/8 expedition to Ankara. The digitization of the Res Gestae squeezes is part of the larger Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology Project, in collaboration with the University of Florida. My job has been to look through the 90+ squeezes, identify the content (that is, what column/lines of the Res Gestae inscription the squeeze preserves), and then type out the inscription for each of the squeezes. Afterwards, I organized them for storage in Cornell’s Rare and Manuscript Collections so they can be used in the future for study and instruction. The digitized squeezes are now online (3D images coming soon):

https://antiquities.library.cornell.edu/squeezes

New Dissertation Blurb

Abstract: My dissertation explores the transition of Athens, Syracuse, and Rome from regional city-state to territorial empire, with a special emphasis on land allotment as the common institution of empire-building. At its center, my project seeks to build a new understanding of how political boundaries—both physical and ideological—were fluid to different degrees in both urban and rural imperial communities. Using comparative history, I develop causal explanations for why ancient Mediterranean states had different approaches to land allotment: first, I investigate regime-specific explanations and, second, I study the sources of wealth and social negotiation in imperial communities on the periphery. By comparing the role of land in the creation, and reconfiguration, of imperial territoriality, Imperial Neighbors puts Athenian political landscape on a new footing, sheds light on the fluidity of western Greek city-states, and challenges the social integration of mid-republican Roman Italy.

Upcoming Talk: “Empire from a Distance: Connectivity and Land Allotment on the Athenian Frontier”

Abstract: This paper takes a systemic and peripheral approach to Athenian imperialism in the mid-fifth century BC. In light of recent trends in international history, it explores imperial stability on the Athenian frontier by linking land-allotments (klēroi) to a new sensitivity for human geography and mobility. As a result of growing Mediterranean connectivity beginning in the Archaic period and Achaemenid imperial advances in Anatolia at the end of the sixth century, a wave of secondary state-formation on the Greek mainland and Magna Graecia created new networks of imperial land-holding. Yet despite their ‘entanglement’ with the Achaemenid periphery, the Athenians developed an approach to territorial empire distinct from their Mediterranean contemporaries. By placing Athens’ transition from city-state to empire in a broad geographic and temporal perspective, this paper argues that Athenian imperialism was path-dependent and contingent on the development of ideas about klēroi.

My study has three sections. First, I use the Euboean settlement of 446/5 BC to argue that the Athenians compartmentalized imperial control and land-holding as separate phenomena. The Athenian preference for absentee landownership tended to favor coercion from a distance over imperial ‘presentism.’ Second, I look to structural trends in Athenian land-holding in the eastern Mediterranean that developed in the Archaic period. For the Athenians, the allotment of imperial land became an endogenous expression that precluded the development of integrated imperial communities on the frontier, reinforcing the boundaries of the city-state by keeping it a closed, imperial society. Finally, I turn to Athens’ Mediterranean context to briefly compare Athenian imperialism in Euboea to similar processes of transition to empire among the Syracusans and Romans. By emphasizing the particularities of each imperial repertoire, I emphasize what was peculiar about land-allotment in Athenian society and why Athenian state-formation took a drastically different course than its contemporaries in central Italy and Sicily.

Transitions: States and Empires in the Longue Durée, the 15th Annual Harvard Conference on International History, Cambridge, MA, March 13, 2015.

Upcoming Talk: “An Empire of Allotment: Imperial Stability and the Athenian Frontier in Fifth-Century Euboea”

Abstract: This paper argues for a systemic and relational approach to Athenian imperialism in the mid-fifth century. In the wake of the Battle of Coronea in 447 BC, the Euboean revolt required the Athenians to revisit the means by which they could secure their landed interests on the island. For Eretria and Chalkis, this meant renewed oaths of loyalty and an agreement (homologia) in the priority of Athenian interests (Eretria: IG I3 39; Chalkis: IG I3 40). Though the practical consequence of Pericles’ settlement of Euboea was the normalization of Athens’ projection of force, the subsequent allotment of Euboean land among Athenian rentiers divorced local land-holding (interested in profit) from imperial governance (interested in stability). As a result, the Athenians were unable to develop stable, inter-generational relationships with local elite populations on the island.

In recent years, Martin Ostwald (2002), Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz (2004), and Alfonso Moreno (2007) have all used the Eretria and Chalkis decrees to show the extent of Athenian exploitation and imperial control in Euboea. None of the studies, however, have developed how the Athenians’ capital-intensive investment in coercion shaped their interactions with local populations. In light of recent trends in global imperial history (e.g., Abernethy 2002; Morris and Scheidel 2009), this paper explores the dynamics of the Athenians’ fifth-century empire by linking imperial land allotments (klēroi) to a new sensitivity for the how empire-building was a social phenomenon that required negotiation on the periphery. It demonstrates the importance of a peripheral perspective to imperial stability and draws wider conclusions about our understanding of Athenian imperialism (cf. Gauthier 1973; Erxleben 1975; Figueira 1991; Salomon 1997).

My study develops through three sections. First, I review the epigraphic (e.g., IG I3 14; 15; 34) and literary (e.g., Aristoph. Birds, 1021-57; [Arist.] Ath. Pol. 24.3) evidence for Athenian imperial officials and garrisons in order to establish how Athens’ investment in manpower was relatively low in frontier regions. Confronted by the systemic conditions of the eastern Mediterranean, the Athenians tended to favor coercion from a distance (to reinforce the inevitability of punishment and an enduring Persian threat) over imperial presentism. Though Athens’ military presence on the island increased after 446/5, garrison units were no mean substitute for more meaningful interactions with local elite populations.

Second, I situate the settlement decrees of 446/5 within their imperial context in Euboea. Epigraphic (e.g., IG I3 418; 421-30; IG XII 9.934) and material (e.g., Green and Sinclair 1970) evidence for Athenian land-holding on Euboea suggest that the Athenians compartmentalized imperial control and land-allotments as separate phenomena. As a result, the allotment of imperial land was an endogenous expression that put a premium on developing consensus in the desirability of empire among the Athenians (e.g., Aristoph. Clouds, 202-5; Wasps, 715-21). This unofficial infrastructure of the Athenian empire, therefore, precluded the development of an integrated imperial elite in Euboea.

Finally, I turn to Athens’ broader Mediterranean context to briefly compare Athenian imperialism in Euboea to similar processes among the Syracusans (at Caulonia and Rhegion after 387 BC) and the Romans (the settlement of the Latin communities after 338 BC). By emphasizing the particularities of each imperial repertoire, I differentiate between what was peculiar about of the klēros in Athenian society and also how Mediterranean conditions created similar problems that each state had to find solutions for.

Such an approach accounts for why the Athenians preferred, relative to their Mediterranean counterparts, political particularism in their imperial interactions with, and never extended citizenship to, local populations. Furthermore, land-allotment was a necessary condition for the development of the Athenian empire in the mid-fifth century: klēroi brought the sovereign voting body into the imperial process and share of imperial rewards. Land allotments were thus a consensus-building tool within the governing citizen body. As a result, the Athenians kept imperial negotiation largely confined within the citizen body but separated from local populations in Euboea.

Society for Classical Studies, New Orleans, LA, January 10, 2015

There and back again.

Is it tacky to lead with a Tolkien reference? Oh well. I made it back to Rome after a month of digging outside Cinigiano with the good people of the Roman Peasant Project. Profs. Kim Bowes and Cam Grey have been incredibly kind and generous with their time as I picked through their brains during my stay. It’ll take a while to process all that I’ve learned over the last 7 weeks bee-bopping around Italy, but I’m looking forward to the next step of dissertation research–the prospectus.

To start with, I’ll be trying to wrap my head around the following questions: What did different imperial communities look like in the ancient Greek world (for Athens, Syracuse, Sparta, Carthage, Persian Anatolia)? How did they work? What kinds of social relationships existed between and among imperial neighbors? Under what circumstances did local, subject peoples become more focused on managing risk (both economic and social) than resisting the fiscal demands of the imperial state? For the moment, I’m using these questions to help me focus on the ‘small politics’ of imperialism from the periphery, and think about the nature and forms of power, negotiation, and dependence. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be focusing my attention on a single case study for each imperial state (e.g., Athenians in Euboea, Syracusans in Megara Hyblaia, Spartans in Messenia, Carthaginians in Selinous, and Persians in Sardis) to ‘think with’ as I try to determine the scope of the dissertation. I hope that a comparative and social approach to imperial land-allotments as a shared variable in the development of local stability will help me differentiate between systemic effects or endogenous features specific to the particular polity (that is, to determine common a different outcomes from rare or unique features). More on all this later.

I promised myself that I will actually update the blog once I get back to Ithaca and start making sense of the material. In the meantime, here’re a *few* of my favorite pictures from the trip.