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Stasis, Reconciliation and Changing Citizenship in the Later Hellenistic World

Benjamin Gray

University of Edinburgh

This paper will consider how civic practices and ideology concerning stasis, conflict and reconciliation can be used to track and interpret changes in Greek approaches to citizenship and civic community in the later Hellenistic world (c. 150–31 BC). It will contribute to the aims of this proposed panel by bringing together the study of stasis, reconciliation, citizenship and political ideology.

Although increasing Roman intervention in the Greek world placed new constraints on traditional civic conflict, stasis and civic reconciliation continued to be prominent features of the later Hellenistic civic world. Indeed, stasis in the later Hellenistic period and early Roman Empire has been receiving increasing scholarly attention (Thornton (1999) and (2001); Böhm (2016)), from scholars who extend into this later period the influential emphasis on stasis as a central aspect of Greek civic culture of Gehrke (1985). Both stasis and reconciliation revealed in the later Hellenistic period features very familiar from earlier Greek history: for example, divisions concerning finance or foreign allegiance, leading to internal civic tensions and often violence; and reconciliation based on ritual, arbitration of financial disputes, and appeals to homonoia (concord). But both stasis and reconciliation also showed some modifications and new features in the later Hellenistic world: for example, it became possible to appeal to powerful Romans as champions of particular factions or of moves towards reconciliation.

This paper will argue that the simultaneous continuities and changes in the nature of Greek stasis and reconciliation in the later Hellenistic period can be mapped onto interesting and important corresponding continuities and changes in the political culture of the later Hellenistic poleis. Scholars have argued strongly that civic ideals and practices were undermined in the later Hellenistic world, especially after c. 150 BC, by a number of new developments: the increasing prominence of narrower, Roman-backed elites, no longer so strongly constrained by civic safeguards and scrutiny; the influence of Roman law, politics and culture; and apparent ‘depoliticisation’, involving an increasing emphasis on culture and education at the expense of traditional political interaction and warfare (see, for example, Gauthier (1985); Grieb (2008)). This picture has some truth, but there were also significant continuities with earlier civic institutions and ideology concerned with the common good. Moreover, the changes emphasised by scholars can also be interpreted in a more positive light: some later Hellenistic poleis were moving towards a more cosmopolitan, cultured civic model, backed up by a mixed constitution combining elite leadership with an active assembly and other meaningful institutions.

This paper will investigate and analyse this complex, ambivalent political culture of the later Hellenistic world by analysing discussions of conflict, reconciliation and civic harmony in the public rhetoric of later Hellenistic civic inscriptions. It will focus on decrees praising those responsible for reconciliation and civic harmony, especially the later Hellenistic honorary decrees of Cos for the dikastagogos Theugenes (SEG 48.1112), of Sagalassos for Manesas of Termessos (TAM III 1 7), of Mylasa for Ouliades (I.Mylasa 101, ll. 42–6) and of Priene for A. Aurelius Zosimos (I.Priene 112–14, esp. 112, ll. 23–7, and 113, ll. 68–70). The rhetoric of such texts about conflict, and its prevention or pre-emption through homonoia, brings into focus central problems and contradictions of the later Hellenistic polis: for example, the role of paternalistic elite figures as guardians of homonoia, whose elite dominance is paradoxically framed within a wider shared vision of interdependence and the common good; the influence of Roman models; the complex, evolving character of relations between citizens and outsiders (including visiting foreign judges and arbitrators), now increasingly linked by complex formal and informal cross-polis ties; corresponding changes in notions of internal civic relations and order, including a blurring of the relationship between homonoia and peace (eirene, previously normally an interstate matter); and complex, developing ideas of civic virtue, as gentle, universalistic virtues of philanthropia and peacefulness came to compete with traditional ideas of robust, martial patriotism.  

Session/Panel Title

Stasis and Reconciliation in Ancient Greece: New Approaches

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