Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece

Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece

Sara Forsdyke

Language: English

Pages: 344


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This book explores the cultural and political significance of ostracism in democratic Athens. In contrast to previous interpretations, Sara Forsdyke argues that ostracism was primarily a symbolic institution whose meaning for the Athenians was determined both by past experiences of exile and by its role as a context for the ongoing negotiation of democratic values.

The first part of the book demonstrates the strong connection between exile and political power in archaic Greece. In Athens and elsewhere, elites seized power by expelling their rivals. Violent intra-elite conflict of this sort was a highly unstable form of "politics that was only temporarily checked by various attempts at elite self-regulation. A lasting solution to the problem of exile was found only in the late sixth century during a particularly intense series of violent expulsions. At this time, the Athenian people rose up and seized simultaneously control over decisions of exile and political power. The close connection between political power and the power of expulsion explains why ostracism was a central part of the democratic reforms.

Forsdyke shows how ostracism functioned both as a symbol of democratic power and as a key term in the ideological justification of democratic rule. Crucial to the author's interpretation is the recognition that ostracism was both a remarkably mild form of exile and one that was infrequently used. By analyzing the representation of exile in Athenian imperial decrees, in the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, and in tragedy and oratory, Forsdyke shows how exile served as an important term in the debate about the best form of rule.

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Organization Anthony Snodgrass first identified population growth as crucial to the changes that gave rise to the eighth-century polis. Snodgrass used the evidence for a sharp rise in burial and settlement numbers to argue for a dramatic growth in population across Greece in the eighth century.16 Despite Ian Morris’s 1987 critique of Snodgrass’s methodology for its assumption of a direct relation between archaeological remains and population size, historians still accept that in the eighth century

however, and as a result, Hippias changed his manner of rule and resorted once again to the politics of exile. Herodotus notes that, following the death of Hipparchus, Hippias ruled in a harsher manner toward the Athenians and that the Alcmeonidae and other Athenians were in exile.203 Although we have already refuted Herodotus’s claim that the Alcmeonidae were in exile throughout the tyranny, it is clear that they and some other elites did in fact go into exile after Hipparchus’s murder. 198 For

satisfactory explanation of our sources’ accounts of the transition to democracy. I argue that a key feature of the events that resulted in the adoption of democratic political organization was the intervention of non-elites in intra-elite politics of exile and the usurpation by non-elites of control over expulsion. By intervening and ultimately resolving the violent struggle between competing elites, non-elites simultaneously asserted their control over decisions of exile and signaled a

non-elites. That is to say, though I include the poor among the non-elite, I imagine that it was often the middling citizens who were the most active among the non-elite in the developments that I discuss in this book.40 Finally, it is important to emphasize that the boundaries between elite and non-elite were fluid.41 In the archaic period, changes in wealth, in particular, could lead to entry into elite status (Solon’s property classes) or demotion from it.42 Similar changes in the group

frequent violent attempts to return. On the ideological level, moreover, the institution of ostracism served as an important symbol of the justice and moderation of democratic rule in contrast to the non-democratic regimes that preceded it. In fact, democratic moderation in the use of exile, I would argue, not only prevented violent intra-elite conflict, but was a key factor in the stability of the democracy. In order to understand this argument, it is important to review some key features of the

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