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This book seeks to understand Xenophon as an elite Athenian writing largely for an elite Athenian audience in the first half of the fourth century BC. It argues that Xenophon calls on men of his own class to set aside their assumptions of superiority based on birth or wealth and to reinvent themselves as individuals who can provide effective leadership to the democratic city and serve it as good citizens. Xenophon challenges, criticizes, and sometimes satirizes the Athenian elite, and seeks to instruct them concerning the values, knowledge, and practical skills they will need to succeed as civic leaders. Xenophon is thus best understood not as an aristocratic dinosaur who is out of place in a democratic setting, as some have assumed, but as a thoughtful and pragmatic reformist who seeks to ensure that meritorious members of the elite step forward to lead within the democracy.
The picture of the Athenian citizen that emerges from this study is neither bleak nor altogether reassuring. Democratic Athens, like other historic states, faced persistent challenges as it sought to ensure that its citizens would carry out their civic obligations. Although the bond between citizen and city was generally strong, Athenian citizens responded individually and diversely to their civic duties. In particular, concerns over person and property could, and did, lead to evasion and underperformance of civic obligations. Just as Athenians were prepared to act shrewdly to protect or advance their personal interests in their relations with one another, so too were they ready to do so in their relations with the city. The nature and intensity of the difficulties that arose as a result, however, varied in the different spheres of civic duty, and the city's responses to these challenges differed accordingly.
The conflict between citizen and state was especially salient in the area of financial obligations. Notwithstanding social pressures on the wealthy to be benefactors of their city, they were deeply concerned about depleting their fortunes through performance of liturgies and payment of the eisphora and therefore actively sought to defend their personal interests. Wealthy Athenians routinely concealed their wealth from the view of the city and of their rich peers, who might seek to transfer liturgies to them through antidosis. The troubled history of the eisphora and trierarchy attests to the ongoing struggle between the wealthy and the city over financial obligations.
The remarkable spread of democracy in the late-twentieth century has led to renewed interest in the roots of western democracy in ancient Athens. This study examines a facet of the Athenian experience that has received less scholarly attention than it deserves: the nature and scope of bad citizenship in classical Athens (508/7–322/1 B.C.) and the city's responses, institutional and ideological, to this. Good citizenship is not ubiquitous in modern democracies, and it was not in democratic Athens. This presented the city with practical challenges, as it sought to limit the scope for bad citizenship through its administrative structures and legal institutions. At the same time, however, bad citizenship challenged Athenian ideals concerning the relationship between individual and state, and elicited a range of ideological responses from the city. How Athens responded to these diverse challenges within a democratic framework is fundamental to our understanding of it.
Although Athenian citizenship bore numerous responsibilities, implicit and explicit, for the exclusive group of adult men who possessed it, this study focuses on two formal obligations that were central to it. Citizens were expected, if called upon, to perform military service as hoplites and to support the city financially in a variety of ways; as Athenian sources pithily put it, citizens were to serve their city with “person and property.” While these obligations could potentially be imposed on any citizen, in practice they did not fall equally on all individuals.
What is the duty of a respectable citizen? … Is it not his duty, when the city needs money, to be among the first to pay the war tax and not to conceal any part of his wealth?
A fundamental obligation of Athenian citizenship, as we have seen, was to serve the city in time of war and to perform this service honorably, even up to the point of death on the battlefield. The Attic funeral orations envision the sacrifice made by Athens' hoplites as a worthy and necessary “expenditure” on behalf of the city that all citizens should be willing to make. If good citizenship could entail this ultimate, metaphorical expenditure, it comes as no surprise that it could also require a man to put his financial resources at the city's disposal. This obligation, however, fell primarily on the city's wealthiest citizens, who were called upon to pay the irregularly imposed war tax (eisphora) and, more routinely, to perform expensive public services (liturgies), including the maintenance and supervision of a trireme (the trierarchy) or the financing and training of a chorus for one of the city's festivals (the chorēgia). Taxation in most societies is unpopular and a source of complaint and resentment; this was conspicuously the case in democratic Athens, where it fell exclusively on a small but powerful group of individuals. This chapter explores the often tense relationship between the city and its wealthiest citizens over financial obligations.
In time of war Athens required citizens who could afford armor and weapons to serve as hoplites, if called upon. At the time of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C), some 18,000–24,000 men were eligible for service. While most eligible citizens probably complied – if not always enthusiastically – with conscription, some evaded service. This chapter seeks to assess evasion of hoplite service in Athens both as a historical phenomenon and as an ideological problem for the city. In Athens, as in modern democracies, evasion of compulsory military service was a real temptation and possibility. Consistent with this is Attic tragedy's frequent treatment of evasion and tensions concerning compulsory service in connection with recruitment for the Trojan War and other martial endeavors. Tragedy, I will argue, provided an imaginative vehicle through which contemporary audiences might come to terms with the tensions surrounding compulsory military service and its evasion within a democratic society.
The first section of this chapter will make the case for taking draft evasion seriously as a problem for the Athenian democracy. The second section will explore tragedy's intriguing engagement with evasion and tensions surrounding compulsory military service.
DRAFT EVASION AND COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE
Modern scholarship rarely addresses draft evasion in Athens or elsewhere in the Greek world. This may reflect the assumption that the martial orientation of Greek society and the high premium it placed on honor made evasion unlikely.
All men, or most men, wish what is noble but choose what is profitable.
(Arist. EN 1163a1)
Although bad citizenship in Athens could arise from a wide range of motivations, it was rooted in the individual's pursuit of self-interest. While few scholars would deny the presence of self-interest among Athenians, the role of self-interest in democratic citizenship in Athens has not been sufficiently explicated. Athenians were highly attuned to the tug of self-interest on the individual and the problems this could pose for their city. Democratic ideology did not seek so much to suppress the pursuit of self-interest as to exploit this: good citizenship, it proclaimed, benefits both the individual and the city. Because individuals varied widely in the extent to which they embraced this view and because shrewd, self-serving behavior was always a temptation, the city faced an ongoing challenge: to persuade and, if necessary, to compel citizens to perform their civic obligations.
This chapter seeks, first, to contextualize self-interest in Athens by surveying how Athenian sources treat this as a fundamental problem for human society. The frank and persistent treatment of the subject in a range of sources attests to the primacy of self-interest in Athenian understandings of human motivation and behavior. The chapter then turns to consider how Athenian civic ideology engaged with the problem of individual self-interest by portraying the relationship between citizen and city as a mutually beneficial one.
I will not bring shame on my sacred arms nor will I abandon the man beside me, wherever I may stand in line. I will defend the sacred and holy and will pass on my fatherland not smaller but greater and better insofar as I am able and with the help of others.
(The Ephebic Oath: Tod II.204.6–11 = Rhodes and Osborne 88.1.6–11)
When Athenian conscripts appeared for hoplite service and went out on campaign, they fulfilled a fundamental obligation of their citizenship. This duty carried with it, however, a further one, namely, to serve honorably and above all to refrain from cowardly behavior. While Athenian hoplites were probably as courageous as any in the Greek world to judge from their military successes, the relatively abundant source material from Athens allows us to probe anxieties and tensions there concerning citizen deportment on campaign. This chapter seeks to break new ground by studying this neglected aspect of the Athenian experience and, in particular, by exploring the interplay between actual behaviors on military campaign – including those that might invite the charge of cowardice – and their representation both on location and after the fact in Athens. Only by considering Athenian concerns about cowardice within this broad framework can we fully appreciate their historical and cultural significance.
Although Athenians often linked draft evasion and cowardice on campaign as kindred breaches of good citizenship (e.g., Lys. 14.5–7; Aeschin. 3.175–6; cf. Lyc. 1.77), these differed from one another in fundamental respects.