This paper will sketch in 15/20 minutes the development in archaic Athens of a proper conceptualization of the frontiers of the chora as the limits of the polis. It will trace in archaic legal texts its emergence in connection with the growing understanding of the polis as the city plus its hinterland.
Although it has been now recognized that differences in the material culture as well as conscious choices in matters like ceramics styles, burials and heroic cults mark Greek attempts to define ethnical boundaries well before the rise of the polis, it is a fact that a proper conceptualization of frontiers as the limit of a given community’s territory is nowhere to be found in the Greek world before the end of the 7th century. The first evidence of such a conceptualization is usually believed to be Draco’s law on homicide (IG I3 104). Based on this text, and despite the evidence brought forward in some recent studies (Manville 1991; Frost 1984, 1994; Anderson 2003) that have questioned that the territory controlled by the Athenian polis could already extend to the whole of Attica as early as the 7th (or 6th) century, scholars still widely agree that the Athenians, at the time of Draco, had a clear understanding of the borders of Athens as the borders of its chora. Athens’ political institutions may have been weak and primitive at this date, but the legal space of the polis was already intended as the union of the asty and its chora, which was safely controlled and institutionalized. Draco’s homicide law (IG I3 104) mentions an agora ephoria, which is read, following a very dubious interpretation provided by Dem. 23.39, as ‘frontier markets’. It would indicate metonymically the borders of the chora (e.g. Stroud 1968; Gagarin 1981; Daverio Rocchi 1988; Ampolo 1999). Such a reading of agora ephoria, I shall argue, is anachronistic for the 7th century, and the metonymical interpretation does not withstand scrutiny. Agora in archaic sources always refers to a civic space, the place of assembly meetings and of civic life, connected to a specific community, and cannot mean in this context a marketplace near the borders without any connection to civic centre (cf. Martin 1951; Ruzé 1997: 14-106; Kenzler 1999: 31 ff., 53 ff., 62 ff., 304 ff.; Hölkeskamp 1997, 1999: 270-85; Longo 2010: 202-4). It is more likely to refer simply to the agora of Athens, within its horoi (horoi as the limits of the agora are attested from archaic Athens, cf. IG I3 1087-9). Draco’s law lacks any reference to the borders of the chora, although one would expect them to be mentioned in relation to the penalty of exile.
The development of a concept of borders of the polis as borders of its chora will then be followed through the 6th century, with analyses of Solon’s law on associations (Digest 47.22.4), the amendment to Draco’s law found at Dem. 23.44 and the Oath of the Ephebes (RO 88, a fourth-century copy), where we find the expression horoi patridos connected to the products of agricultural land. This development will be interpreted in light of the expansion of the arable land farmed by the city-dwellers of Athens, in Weberian terms the Ackerbürger (cf. e.g. Hansen 2006; Blintiff 2006), and the challenge of including separate settlements within the growing institutional framework of the city.