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Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science

Edited by Mirko Canevaro, Andrew Erskine, Benjamin Gray, Josiah Ober

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Defines the cutting-edge of scholarship on ancient Greek history employing methods from social science

There is a long history of successful engagement between social science and classical studies. Social science has been a source of new and productive approaches to understanding ancient Greece, while classical Greek history and culture has been a touchstone for social theorists since the 19th century. This new collection of essays surveys the current state of the new field of ‘social science Greek history’ and demonstrates the potential of this interdisciplinary field.

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List of Contributors


Section I: Theory and Method

1. Behavioural Economics and Economic Activity in Classical Athens, David Lewis

2. The City in Chorus: For a Choral History of Athenian Society, Vincent Azoulay and Paulin Ismard

3. Approaching the Hellenistic Polis through Modern Political Theory: the Public Sphere, Pluralism and Prosperity, Benjamin Gray

Section II: Institutions

4. Majority Rule vs. Consensus: the practice of democratic deliberation in the Greek poleis, Mirko Canevaro

5. Rethinking Mass and Elite: Decision-Making in the Athenian Law-Courts, Federica Carugati and Barry R. Weingast

6. Ancient and Modern Conceptions of the Rule of Law, Sara Forsdyke

7. What can Data drawn from the Hansen-Nielsen Inventory tell us about Political Transitions in Ancient Greece?, Robert K. Fleck and F. Andrew Hanssen

Section III: Behaviour

8. Patronage in Ancient Sparta, Ingvar B. Mæhle

9. Understanding the politics of Pericles around 450 BCE: the benefits of an economic perspective, Carl Hampus Lyttkens and Henrik Gerding

10. Cash and crowns: a network approach to Greek athletic prizes, Christian Mann

Section IV: Wealth, Poverty and Inequality

11. Property Security and its Limits in Classical Greece, Emily Mackil

12. Economic (in)equality and democracy: the political economy of poverty in Athens, Claire Taylor

13. The Distribution of Wealthy Athenians in the Attic Demes, James Kierstead and Roman Klapaukh

Section V: Interstate Relations

14. Exploring inter-community political activity in fourth-century Greece, Peter Liddel

15. Hegemonic Legitimacy (and its Absence) in Classical Greece, Polly Low

16. The Koinon Dogma, the Mercenary Threat, and the Consolidation of the Democratic Revolutions in mid 5th Century Sicily, David Teegarden

Section VI: Technology and Innovation

17. Muddle wrestling: grappling for conceptual clarity in archaic money, Peter van Alfen

18. Entanglement, Materiality, and the Social Organization of Construction Workers in Classical Athens, Diane Harris Cline

19. Technology and Society in Classical Athens: A study of the social context of mining and metallurgy at Laurion, Kim van Liefferinge

Overview: Greek history at a crossroads, John K. Davies

About the Author

Mirko Canevaro is Reader in Greek History, at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of The Documents in the Attic Orators (OUP, 2013. He is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Law (OUP, 2016) and The Hellenistic and Early-Imperial Reception of Athenian Democracy and Political Thought (OUP, 2016).

Andrew Erskine is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh.

Benjamin Gray is lecturer in Ancient History, Birkbeck, University of London and also, until August 2018, Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt-Universität Berlin.

Josiah Ober is Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (Princeton, 2015), Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens (Princeton, 2008), Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going on Together (Princeton, 2005), Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (Princeton, 1998), The Athenian Revolution (Princeton, 1996), Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (Princeton, 1989), Fortress Attica (Brill, 1985). He is co-author of Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece (University of California Press, 2007).


This volume is a manifesto for the implementation of the methods of social science in the field of ancient Greek History. After a methodological introduction by Josiah Ober that sets the debate, the nineteen chapters, followed by a conclusion by John Davies, beautifully illustrate the fruitfulness of the approach.

- Alain Bresson, The University of Chicago

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