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Athens and Its Subjects. Imperial Controls and Imperial Ideology. Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove Thucydides, 1.76.

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Athens and its subjects

Athens and Its Subjects

Imperial Controls and Imperial Ideology

Iron fist in the velvet glove thucydides 1 76

Iron Fist in the Velvet GloveThucydides, 1.76

“We have done nothing contrary to human practice, in accepting an empire when it was offered to us and then refusing to give it up. Three very powerful motives prevent us from doing so--honor, fear, and self-interest. And we were not the first to act in this way. It has always been a rule that the weak should be subject to the strong; besides we consider that we are worthy of our power.”

Imperialism problems of definition
Imperialism: Problems of Definition

  • “Imperialism” enters English language and gains currency after 1870

  • J.A.Hobson/V.I. Lenin: capitalist exploitation

  • J.A. Schumpeter: “the objectless disposition on the part of a state to unlimited forcible expansion.”

  • M. Doyle (Empires: 45): “a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the effective sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence.”

Imperialism and subjects

Imperialism and Subjects

Empire and Life Among “Allies”

Moses finley on athenian imperialism

Moses Finley on Athenian Imperialism

“Athenian imperialism employed all the forms of material exploitation that were available and possible in that society.”

Moses finley s typology of imperialism
Moses Finley’s Typology of Imperialism

  • Finley’s Typology of State Power exercised over other states:

    • 1. Restriction of freedom of action in interstate relations

    • 2. Political/judicial/administrative interference in internal affairs

    • 3. Compulsory military/naval service

    • 4. Payment of some form of tribute

    • 5. Confiscation of land of other states

    • 6. Various forms of economic exploitation/subordination

  • The “Closed Sea” Policy (cf. Thuc. 3.86 on Athenian western operations in 427 BCE)

Athenian imperial controls
Athenian Imperial Controls

  • Athenian Courts for Athenian/Allied Litigation

  • Athenian Weights, Measures and Currency for Allied States

  • Proxenoi and Fostering Democratic Constitutions in other Greek States

  • Cleruchies--10,000 holdings? (Finley)

  • Tribute Lists (ATL)

Athens and its subjects

Coinage Decree450-446 or 425/4 or before 414 BCE “The herald making the journey shall require of them (that they accomplish) all that the Athenians command. An addition shall be made to the oath of the Boule by the secretary of the [Boule, in future, as] follows: “If someone coins money of silver in the citiesand does not use [Athen]ian coins or weights or measures [but (uses instead) foreign coins] and measures and weights, [I shall exact punishment and penalize him according to the former] decree which Klearch[os moved.” Anyone shall be allowed to turn in] the foreign money [which he possesses and to convert it in the same fashion] whenever he chooses. The city [shall give him in place of it our own coin.] Each individual (?) [shall bring] his money [to Athens and deposit it at the] mint.”

Coinage decree athenian owl
Coinage DecreeAthenian “Owl”

Athens and its subjects

Athenian Import Interests in the Peloponnesian War (427 BCE)“The Athenians sent the fleet [to Sicily], ostensibly because of their kinship with the Leontinians, though their real aims were to prevent grain being brought in to the Peloponnesus from the west and to make a preliminary survey to see whether it would be possible for them to gain control of Sicily.”Thucydides, 3.86

Imperialism and metropole

Imperialism and Metropole

Empire and Life in Athens

Imperial economy of democratic athens infrastructure
Imperial Economy of Democratic Athens: Infrastructure

  • Fleet (100 active triremes, 200 reserves)

    • Dock workers, shipwrights, around 20,000 rowers, rope and cable industry, pitch manufacture, sail production, crew trainers

  • Building Program

    • Architects, sculptors and stone cutters, day laborers for public works projects

  • Athenian and Inter-State Administration of Justice

    • Lodging and consumer spending for non-Athenians in Athens

    • Pay for jury duty; inter-state cases tried in Athens

    • Bureaucracy of the empire: 700 officials (Arist. Ath. Pol. 24.3)

    • Imperial Citizenship and Democracy

Imperial ideology panathenaea athenian cultural symbols of power and dominance
Imperial Ideology: PanathenaeaAthenian Cultural Symbols of Power and Dominance

  • Poetic, musical, and athletic contests; torch race

  • Presentation of the peplos to cult statue of Athena

  • Tributary states required to send official delegation to the festival; contribution of cow and panoply by each state; bringing in of tribute

  • Tribute assessments announced for the next year

Athens and its subjects

Varvakeion Statuette

2nd century CE

Athenian theater as self critique a corrective to thucydides on the melian debate

Athenian Theater as Self-Critique?A Corrective to Thucydides on the “Melian Debate”?

Euripides, The Trojan Women (415 BCE) as Social Protest?

Theater of the Absurd: Aristophanes

Lysistrata, Acharnians as anti-war plays; Birds and Cloudcuckooland (414 BCE) as utopian satire of Athenian empire: cui bono? Aristocratic class bias (cf. “Old Oligarch”)?Athenian people as beneficiaries of empire


  • Approaches to Studying Imperial Expansion

    • Metrocentric

    • Pericentric

    • Systemic