Poverty in Athenian Public Discourse
From the Eve of the Peloponnesian War to the Rise of Macedonia
Historia – Einzelschriften
283 p. hard cover
AbstractWhile previous research has focused on the public discourse of wealth, little attention has thus far been paid to the perception of poverty and attitudes toward it in classical Athens. This book argues that a public discourse of poverty in Athens can be reconstructed from sources dating from the 430s to the 330s BC. Athenian democracy promoted ideas about poverty that could substantially contribute to the stability of the political system, while simultaneously differentiating between destitution and "good poverty" – the latter being a legitimate condition for a citizen and beneficial to the polis. After a preliminary discussion of the debate over the definition of poverty in the social sciences, Lucia Cecchet explores the web of beliefs and the collective imaginary of poverty that emerge from classical Athenian sources addressed to large audiences: drama and oratory. The frequency with which images and ideas about "the poor" occur in these sources testifies to an ongoing discussion of the causes and effects of poverty and even possible solutions to this social problem. These sources allow us to investigate how these topics were used in drama, in the Assembly and in the jury courts to arouse emotions and influence public decisions.
"Die Hauptstärke von Cecchets Studie sind ihre textsicheren und kritischen Quellenanalysen. Der 'Diskurs' schwebt dabei nicht im luftleeren Raum, sondern wird in einer Rekonstruktion der sozioökonomischen Entwicklung im 4. Jahrhundert verankert. Ideen- und Strukturgeschichte werden nicht gegeneinander ausgespielt, sondern verknüpft."
Moritz Hinsch, H-Soz-Kult, 25.07.2016
"This book shows how various and multifaceted the rhetoric and ideology of poverty was. It was far from the more homogeneous and monolithic concept it would later become. As far as I am aware, this is the first book to treat the topic of the Athenian concept of poverty at length. Its collection and discussion of relevant texts from multiple genres is praiseworthy. It will thus be the essential launching pad for anyone interested in further studying the topic."
Alex Gottesman, BMCR 2017.05.52
Sven Günther, MBAH 34, 2016