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Intertextuality in Athenian Interstate Legislation: The Case of IG II^2 1

John Aldrup-MacDonald

Duke University

Scholarship on Greek diplomacy is divided between modernists and primitivists (Lendon 2002). The division is fiercest in the matter of interstate law. For the modernist, the only form of interstate law in Classical Athens “was that contained in treaties between states” (Gomme HCT ad 1.37). For the primitivist, Athenians treated kinship, friendship, and moral norms as sources of interstate law (Low 2007). The evidence for the primitivist view is far richer in Greek literature (Fragoulaki 2013). Yet appeals to friendship, kinship, and moral norms have left little trace in epigraphic copies of interstate documents created at Athens. How is that possible, if they formed the source of interstate law?

This paper offers one possible answer: when drafting interstate legislation, Athenians paid closer attention to prior documents than scholars have realized. The argument centers on IG II2 1, but the first section of it will briefly establish that interstate legislation was intertextual in two senses. Interstate legislation approved at Athens took the form of decrees, and those who drafted such decrees sometimes explicitly and consciously modeled their language on the texts of prior interstate legislation (e.g. [Dem].17.30). Moreover, decrees drafted in response to foreign embassies were framed as responses to what ambassadors said on the floor of the assembly (e.g. [Dem].7.46 and IG II² 107). Thus, such decrees must reflect (at least in part) negotiations held on the floor of the council and assembly, and one text, IG II2 1, reveals how closely those negotiations revolved around the texts of particular documents.

IG II2 1 consists of three decrees, each with three riders, passed at three separate meetings of the assembly, in 405/4 B.C. and 403/2 B.C.; we are concerned only with the first and second. The first, passed in 405/4, consists of a main resolution, drafted in the council and brought to the assembly, in which the Samians are granted, among other things, Athenian citizenship, the right to certain legal privileges in court cases, and the right to Athens’ state property held at Samos (i.e. ships); the rider, drafted and ratified in the assembly alone, contains separate provisions for particular Samians. The main body of the second decree, drafted in the council and brought to the assembly after the restoration of democracy in 403/2, establishes that “everything previously decreed by the assembly for the Samian people be valid” (ll.43-44). Attached to this decree is a rider drafted in and ratified by the assembly alone: “that everything previously decreed by the assembly be valid exactly as the council issued in its preliminary decree” (ll.52-54).

Scholars have long found the repetition puzzling (Rhodes&Osborne 2003). This paper offers a new solution: the main body of the second decree was understood, on the floor of the assembly, to refer to the rider to the main body of the first decree, because riders were only proposed in the assembly, and thus to propose “that everything decreed by the assembly be valid” might be construed as referring to the rider of the first alone (since the main body was decreed by the council and the assembly alike, but the rider by the assembly alone). The rider to the second decree, then, was proposed to clarify exactly which part of the first decree was meant by the proposal of the main body of the second decree. This solution, then, implies that part of the debate in the assembly revolved around the nature of the relationship between the proposal made in the second decree and the text of the first decree.

Thus, a new solution to an old puzzle suggests that by the late fifth century Athenians practiced the kind of “intertextual diplomacy” that is so abundantly evident in the fourth century; that this method of diplomacy coexisted alongside the diplomacy of kinship, friendship, and morality; that therefore the disagreement between primitivist and modernist reflects a modern divide, not an ancient and Athenian one.

Session/Panel Title

Epigrpahy and Civic Identity

Session/Paper Number

66.1

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