Rural Athens Under the Democracy

The first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct, on its own terms, the world of Athens outside the city walls during the classical fifth and fourth centuries B.C.

Rural Athens Under the Democracy

Nicholas F. Jones

2004 | 344 pages | Cloth $65.00
Classics | History
View main book page

Table of Contents


An Epistemological Problem. Terminology and Design of the Study. Ancient Sources. Scholarly Literature and Overview of Argument. Town vs. Country.

Chapter 1 Settlement
State and Rural Community. Determinants of Rural Residence Patterns. Epigraphic Evidence for Farmstead Residence. Literary Evidence for Rural Residence. The Nucleated Village Center.

Chapter 2 Society
The Attic Rural Family. Philotimia and Rivalry. Patronage: Customary Usage and Institutional Form. Communal Activity in the Deme-Association Center. Conclusion.

Chapter 3 Village
Acharnai. Aixone. Halai Aixonides. Teithras. Three Models.

Chapter 4 Dionysia
Name and Orientation of the Festival. Distribution of the Festival over the Demes. The Events of the Festival and Their Sequence. The Dionysiac Festival beyond the Deme. Conclusions.

Chapter 5 Realities
Settlement, Residence, and Mobility. Patronage: Big Man, Crisis, and Reciprocation. Agricultural Labor: Family, Class, and Gender. Hesiod, the Seasons, and Seasonality. Diet. Clothing. Music. Speech, Orality, and Literacy. Religion: Myth, Cult, and the Town. Mentalité.

Chapter 6 Images
Old Comedy and Aristophanes. Xenophon. Theophrastos of Eresos. Middle Comedy. New Comedy and Menander.

Chapter 7 Philosophy
Reign of Kronos, Hippodamos of Miletos, and Phaleas of Chalkedon. Plato: Deme, Place of Residence, and Urban Outlook. Plato's Social Topography: Rural Spaces and Society in the Republic, Kritias, and Laws, Book 3. The Cretan City in Plato's Laws. Aristotle.

Chapter 8 Paradigms

Subject Index

Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


That ancient Athens was one the great cities in human history is, I trust, agreed by everyone, notwithstanding differences regarding the criteria by which "greatness" is to be identified and measured. As it happens, we are now living at a time when the recovery, sifting, analysis, and publication of the city's multifaceted record has reached such a level as to make possible increasingly more comprehensive reconstructions and appreciations. The present study of rural Athens is confined to but a single topographically defined dimension of that record, yet one with far-reaching ramifications for our understanding in virtually every department of the city's functioning, private and public alike. But my approach, though selective, is not arbitrarily so. My goal has been to establish that rural Athens under the classical democracy of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. constituted, or at least was dominated by, a distinct, characteristically nonurban society and culture, and then to show in rough outline how that distinct societal and cultural regime was represented in contemporary literary "images." No attempt, in particular, has been made to deal with the physical record except for a few perfunctory references to secondary publications; recovery and analysis of that record is still continuing and its evaluation in any event lies well outside my experience and competence. Accordingly, my thesis is presented not as an exhaustive compilation of data but as a sort of challenge: I believe that even my partial treatment of the record is sufficient to establish the distinctiveness of rural Athens. It will remain for those who disagree to present new evidence or contrasting interpretations of the evidence examined here.

Two overarching issues, which are organically and dichotomously related to one another, are implicitly engaged by my study, the first of which is unity. Was classical Athens, whether viewed narrowly as a political entity ("the Athenians") or more broadly and socially (citizens, metics, and slaves; women as well as men; etc.) or territorially (the land of Attica), a meaningful, substantial monolithic whole? Or did "Athens" remain a loose assemblage of parts unified only nominally in rhetoric or ideology or defensively but temporarily when threatened with destruction from without?

Modern efforts to comprehend Attica in its totality have been with us for a quarter century and reflect a variety of dimensions: the topographic segmentation of Athenian territory (Traill 1975 and 1986; Siewert 1982; Jones 1987); the building-block tier of segmentation into constitutent demes or villages (Whitehead 1986); temporary and shifting linkages of an economic, social, or political nature evidenced in mining leases, associational membership, or partisan alliance (many, including especially Osborne 1985b); a periodically active web of "national" cult centers bonding town and country (de Polignac 1995 [1984]); a loose nexus of associations, both urban and rural, potentially bridging existing lines of fragmentation (Jones 1999); the pan-Attic citizenship and its embedded ideology (most recently, Boegehold and Scafuro 1994, Ober and Hedrick 1996); and now the "nation" of Athens (E. Cohen 2000). But to study "Athens" in its totality and to assert its unity are of course two very different (though possibly coinciding) enterprises. These studies succeed in establishing the existence of out-reaching institutions, shared memberships, and significant linkages across Attica, but do they amount to a demonstration of a substantive unity?

My own just cited study of the classical association (The Associations of Classical Athens: The Response to Democracy, Oxford 1999), for example, while acknowledging the comprehensive reach of formally organized groups in both demographic and territorial dimensions, ends up arguing that they comprised a sort of collective reaction—and a divisive, deunifying reaction—against an urban-based democratic government. The effects, if my thesis is valid, will have been many and varied, but among them must necessarily be included the maintenance of a fundamental cleft between town and country. The present book continues this line of argument and, as such, will join forces with a by now generation-old strand of postmodernist scholarship (and the second of my two dichotomous issues), the detection and analysis of the marginalized Other or, more abstractly put, alterity. Differences of status or order, class, gender, occupation, and so on may all give rise to the perception of Otherness by the dominant center, but not until very recently has the study of alterity approached what I will argue was still another major divide (and one all the more consequential because it will have sundered the citizen body)—that between town and country. I especially have in mind Beth Cohen's edited volume Not the Classical Ideal: Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art (Leiden 2000), and in particular Maria Pipili's essay "Wearing an Other Hat: Workmen in Town and Country." The hat which marked the countryman in contrast with his townsman counterpart was, if my thesis wins approval, only a relatively minor manifestation of a far more pervasive Otherness. My rural Athens, subject to the definitions and qualifications to be laid out in due course, may be viewed as a characterization of Attic society and culture outside the walls in terms which will have rendered it an Other from the perspective of our predominantly urban witnesses. If one were, reasonably, to ask why after all this time so fundamental a feature of Athenian society and culture could have until now escaped our attention, I would answer that because my "rustics" were dominated by a large segment of the adult male citizen "elite" they have not been subjected to the special scrutiny accorded the nonelites as defined by gender, order or rank, or ethnicity.

The book has had a long gestation, with numerous debts of gratitude incurred along the way. Recognition must begin with my home institution, the University of Pittsburgh, where preliminary versions of my work were presented to the Department of Classics, the Department of History, and several of my undergraduate and graduate classes. To Edwin D. Floyd, chair of the Department of Classics, special thanks for assisting me in the use of electronic sources, for authorizing the use of university funds for travel to a distant academic library, and generally for extending institutional and collegial support to my project. Anonymous readers saved me from errors, ambiguities, and infelicities; provided valuable additional sources and bibliography; and, perhaps most importantly, gave me an advance idea of the reception my book is likely to receive. The Department of Classics at the University of California in Berkeley graciously granted access to bibliographic materials not available to me here in Pittsburgh. I am greatly indebted to the director, Eric Halpern, and the editorial board at the University of Pennsylvania Press for agreeing to publish my book and thereby allowing it to be associated with that distinguished institution of learning.

The manuscript, save for two chapters still only in advanced draft form, was submitted to the publisher in the fall of 2000. Publications first coming to my attention since that time, including some very recent imprints, I have attempted to incorporate in the final draft, but in the case of Edward E. Cohen's The Athenian Nation, Princeton 2000, I think it better to postpone systematic response to some future occasion—a decision necessitated in any event by the same limitations of space that have elsewhere required me to keep citation of secondary literature to a bare minimum. Besides, my thesis, like his, needs to be set out initially in its own terms rather than in dialogue with competing acccounts of the subject.

On the wall of our bedroom above the computer on which this book has been written are two old photographs dating from the late 1800s. One is a formal studio portrait of my great grandparents—my maternal grandmother's mother and father—and their ten children, including my grandmother herself. The other is a view of the house on the Tilford family's farm in eastern Kansas where she was raised before she moved west to Los Angeles to teach elementary school and acquired the Craftsman cottage in which I spent my childhood. Although always in my eyes the Kansas farm girl, Mabel Tilford Patterson, were she alive today, would probably have found little in common with my ancient rural Athenians, but I dedicate this book to her memory anyway with thanks for everything and especially for instilling in me a rural way of looking at things and ultimately inspiring me to explore this topic.