Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece

Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece

Sara Forsdyke

Language: English

Pages: 344


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This book explores the cultural and political significance of ostracism in democratic Athens. In contrast to previous interpretations, Sara Forsdyke argues that ostracism was primarily a symbolic institution whose meaning for the Athenians was determined both by past experiences of exile and by its role as a context for the ongoing negotiation of democratic values.

The first part of the book demonstrates the strong connection between exile and political power in archaic Greece. In Athens and elsewhere, elites seized power by expelling their rivals. Violent intra-elite conflict of this sort was a highly unstable form of "politics that was only temporarily checked by various attempts at elite self-regulation. A lasting solution to the problem of exile was found only in the late sixth century during a particularly intense series of violent expulsions. At this time, the Athenian people rose up and seized simultaneously control over decisions of exile and political power. The close connection between political power and the power of expulsion explains why ostracism was a central part of the democratic reforms.

Forsdyke shows how ostracism functioned both as a symbol of democratic power and as a key term in the ideological justification of democratic rule. Crucial to the author's interpretation is the recognition that ostracism was both a remarkably mild form of exile and one that was infrequently used. By analyzing the representation of exile in Athenian imperial decrees, in the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, and in tragedy and oratory, Forsdyke shows how exile served as an important term in the debate about the best form of rule.





















the Polis Against the background of a socially diverse Dark Age, scholars have identified several factors as crucial for the emergence in the eighth century of the early 8 Snodgrass 1971, 360–65; 1993, 37 (the latter publication adding the evidence of more recent survey evidence). 9 Scheidel 2003, 122. 10 See I. Morris 1987, 157 (fig. 54), for the evidence from Attica, Corinthia, and the Argive plain. 11 The prime example is the role of the kings (basile i?): see Drews 1983; Carlier 1984; Donlan

that by the early sixth century some Megarians were so indebted to the wealthier citizens that there was a great deal of social unrest.95 The most likely causes of the worsening conditions of the poor were population growth and increasing production for market trade. As Ian Morris has argued in relation to Solonian Athens, ‘‘population growth produced a situation where landowners would actually want to get rid of some of their sharecroppers, or else renegotiate the terms of dependency. No doubt

suppressed the coup of Cylon in 636, and was thus a member of the leading elite family of the Alcmeonidae. Lycurgus, the leader of the second, was probably the ancestor of the fourth-century Lycurgus of the prominent elite family of the Eteobutadae.91 Finally, Pisistratus, the leader of the third, was thought to be descended from some early kings of Athens.92 His ancestor Pisistratus held the archonship in 669/8.93 The fact that the sixth-century Pisistratus was a general in the war against

have required such a guard suggests that it was not inconceivable that Pisistratus might suffer physical harm from his elite rivals. Herodotus’s report of Pisistratus’s speech to the assembly seems to reflect the form that this intra-elite violence often took: exile on threat of death. According to Herodotus, Pisistratus claimed that he ‘‘had fled his enemies [e˘ kpefeugw¡? tou¡? e˘ xFrou?], who wished to kill him [a˘ polesai].’’ Pisistratus’s response to the attempt of his enemies to kill him

to believe that Herodotus and his informants were unable to understand a shared cultural pattern of traditional religious processions. On my interpretation, the puzzlement of Herodotus and his sources is explained by their assumption that the ploy was the means by which Pisistratus deceived the Athenians and seized power. Without this assumption, Herodotus and his informants would have recognized the event as a traditional collective ritual. The separation of Pisistratus’s assumption of power

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