This paper examines the epigraphic evidence from several rural Attic demes as an important, yet hitherto under-examined, aspect for the determination of social and economic historical patterns in Classical Athens. It is well known that a substantial percentage of the Athenian population did not reside full-time in the deme to which they were politically affiliated (Whitehead; Osborne 1985; Jones; Etienne and Müller). Prevailing theories often contain two underlying assumptions about the movement of people in Athens: first, that the movement was bipolar, i.e., from the city to the country or the country to the city; second, that the movement was centripetal, with the Athens-Peiraieus urban complex acting as the locus of attraction for movement within Attica, to the virtual exclusion of other locations. Such assumptions privilege the political and economic attractions of the city and port over other factors in determining residence in the territories of ancient Athens, and fail to recognize the sophistication of the dialectic between city and country (Bintliff; Polinskaya). Even studies that have attempted to nuance the picture of mobility in Attica (Osborne 1987 and 1991; Hansen et al; Damsgaard-Madsen; Nielsen et al) have focused nearly entirely on evidence from the funerary inscriptions, ignoring other avenues of investigatory relevance.
Demographic analysis of the entirety of the epigraphic record demonstrates that this picture does not accurately reflect the true circumstances of personal mobility in Attica (Taylor 2007 and 2011; Akrigg 2007 and 2011). Instead, we see the emergence of several different residence patterns that demonstrate, first, that the Athens-Peiraieus complex did not exert a centripetal pull upon the inhabitants of ancient Attica to the degree which is sometimes assumed, and second, that a complex nexus of factors – social, political, and economic - influenced the decision of an individual to reside or own property in a given locale.
My study combines a close examination and analysis of the extant material culture as contextualized by the literary tradition with an exploration of current scholarly theories on the economic and social networks of ancient Athens. By comparing the epigraphic record from several rural Attic demes, whose locations, economy, and settlement structure differ from each other, I demonstrate that a surprisingly large percentage of those residents whose movements we can track remained in the ancestral deme or moved to other areas of rural Attica, rather than moving full-time to city or port. This finding has important implications for how we should view the relationship between Athens and rural Attica in the Classical period. My analysis also reveals that smaller, regional networks in the Attic countryside existed, which allowed some “rural” locations to act as loci of population attraction. The existence of such regional networks supported the emergence of more localized spheres of influence in the political, social, and liturgical realms which had little to no overlap with those of the asty. It becomes clear that the migration patterns of rural Attica reveal a far more dynamic interaction between city and countryside than has hitherto been fully appreciated.