BMCR Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, As the subtitle indicates, the papers are all concerned with aspects of Greek social behavior, broadly defined. The volume opens with a short Foreword by Pamela-Jane Shaw, a former PhD student of Fisher, who writes appreciatively of his qualities as a teacher.
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Deene they could agree to hold the property — or some part of it — jointly, 5 it appears to have been most common to divide it into shares of equal value.
In the well-known family described in Is. The financial consequences of this type of inheritance system are bound to have been considerable, and this for families at both ends along the social scale. For families with only one son and heir, the situation was most opportune. For families with more than one son, however, the partible inheritance system was less favourable. The hazards of this type of inheritance system did not remain unnoticed at the time.
Aristotle speaks at length about the dangers inherent in people having several sons who would inherit small portions of property, leading to poverty and possibly social conflict stasis Arist. At the same time, property of people dying without direct descendants went to close relatives, thereby concentrating property in less households.
Thucydides II, 53, refers to those Athenians who, during the epidemic of BC, suddenly became rich through inheriting the property of dead relatives.
Obviously, people would have died anyway and their property would have been divided by others, even if there had not been any plague at the time. The increased mortality merely accelerated an ongoing process, which might be expected in any case to have had considerable force of its own.
The fact that some men had very good chances through inheritance to share in the enjoyment of the assets of more than one estate was a seeming inequity sometimes complained about by disillusioned, would-be beneficiaries claiming close relationship to only a single estate. Much was at stake in the transfer of property through generations, and it comes as no surprise that inheritances formed a major battleground in Athenian law-courts.
Not only do we have knowledge of Athenian laws on wills [ Dem. The corpus of Attic law-court 2 5. Ancient demographics 29 speeches also contain a significant number of inheritance cases, in particular those composed by Isaios, which present us with a vivid picture of guardians being sued for embezzling the property of orphans, uncles making claims on the inheritance of relatives, and succession disputes dominating the lives of certain families for several decades.
In effect, since ancient demographics caused patriline discontinuity to be a reality many Athenian families were exposed to, the transfer of property through generations was one important way of accumulating wealth, and this not only for sons inheriting from their own father. Thus in discussing the impoverishment of children born into large families in Sparta, Aristotle implicated the Spartan system of partible inheritance as a source of increasing inequalities in property ownership Arist.
This hypothesis has been tested by Hodkinson, who has by means of computer simulation undertaken a systematic examination of the combined effect of ancient demography and partible inheritance upon the distribution of land.
The results of his examination suggest that there was an inherent trend towards the concentration of property in the operation of the Spartiate system of partible inheritance.
In fact, while this so-called inherent trend towards the concentration of property is in line with what is known about Spartan property holding in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, it does not tally well with the remarkably equal property distributions that have during the last couple of decades by various scholars independently been observed for Athens. This contrast has in modern scholarship largely been overlooked, despite its importance for our understanding of the covariates in the relationship between ancient demographics, partible inheritance, and economic mobility across generations.
What might have made outcomes in Athens distinctive from those in other ancient cities similarly plagued by high mortality, such as Sparta? Explicitly comparing classical Sparta and Athens, this paper will seek to formulate an answer to this question by focusing on the importance of behavioural factors, state-imposed mechanisms and socio-economic conditions in shaping the impact of mortality patterns.
It will argue that, although it is difficult to exclude that fertility and inheritance strategies, employed both in Athens and in Sparta, played a role in generating greater in equality whether or not cancelled out by other factors, the distinctive situation in Athens above all might have been engendered by typical Athenian 6. Deene state-imposed mechanisms reducing wealth disparities and by the relatively low level of income inequality in Athenian society.
The joint impact of ancient demographics and partible inheritance : Sparta versus Athens As part of his research on property and wealth in classical Sparta, Hodkinson undertook by means of computer simulation a systematic examination of the combined effect of ancient demography and partible inheritance upon the distribution of land.
The vast majority of families own holdings smaller, many much smaller, than the one unit held by the ancestors. In contrast, at the other end of the scale a sizeable minority of families are wealthier, and a tiny minority much wealthier, than their ancestors. It simulates what would have happened to the distribution of property, if daughters had inherited as heiresses but there had been no dowries of land given to other daughters on marriage. Ancient demographics 31 In addition, they account for the sharp decline in the number of citizens, which had started during the fifth century BC, as this decline was to a certain extent due to widespread impoverishment within the citizen body.
In their studies of landholding in classical Athens, both Foxhall and Osborne have argued that around 7. Morris has pointed out that the resulting range of Gini coefficients — measuring inequality or concentration in a distribution, in this case of land — of 0. One of the most early contributions has been made by Davies, 17 who has, as part of his PhD research in the s, attempted to construct a propertydistribution graph for the fourth-century Athenian citizen population.
More recently, the distribution of private wealth among citizen families in fourthcentury Athens has been mapped out and studied by Kron, 18 and this from a comparative perspective. The results of his study are remarkable, as putting the data in their proper historical perspective reveals a distribution of wealth among the citizen population in Athens much like that of a midth-century democracy.
This generates a Gini coefficient of citizen wealth inequality of 0. Deene that of the overall population of the USA in 0. This is perhaps less equal than Canada in 0. In Athens, although a dowry seems not to have been a legal requirement Lys. It was usually composed of money, furniture, and other mobile goods, but it could occasionally include also land. Croix, the role of women in Athenian inheritance law helped preserve property within the family, which would otherwise have 6 9.
Ancient demographics 33 accumulated in the hand of the rich. While in Sparta daughters could inherit in their own right and the patrouchos did not have to marry the next-of-kin, the Athenian epikleros did have to marry the next of kin. This, according to him, ensured that, in Athens, property was kept in the family and worked against automatic accumulation by the already rich through the process of marriage and inheritance, and resulted into the greater equality of property among citizen families.
This, thus de Ste. This explanation, however, is not entirely satisfactory. This means that, even without the phenomenon of daughters, and patrouchoi more specifically, having been given in marriage to the richest possible husband, the combination of both ancient demography and the partible inheritance system can be expected to have had a significant impact on the distribution of wealth and property. Therefore, even if the patrouchos in the Spartan inheritance system played a role in the process of property concentration and increasing inequality, it will only have intensified an ongoing process and cannot be considered to have been the sole determining factor in the relationship between ancient demographics, partible inheritance, and economic mobility across generations in Sparta.
Deene was certainly well known and praised since early times. Hesiod was the first to highlight the dangers of the system of partbility and to recommend to have merely one son, in order to preserve the family property in total Hesiod, Op. In Plutarchean tradition, the same opinion is attributed to Lycurgus and Xenocrates ps. V, b. According to Sallares, high fertility in classical Athens was, besides as a means of countering the high infant mortality rate, much desired for the same good reasons as in other premodern societies, such as the desire for extra labour and the need for children to provide support in old age.
On the contrary, although grown children were of value through possible marriages that could secure beneficial trans-family alliances, more children — both boys and girls — entailed more expense so as to provide them with a privileged lifestyle suitable to their standing in Athenian society. Sallares believes the Athenians were quite happy for their property to be divided between several children under the partible inheritance system and rejects the possibility of rich Athenians consciously seeking to limit the size of their families.
Moreover, various strategies other than family limitation, such as the practice of keeping property undivided in the joint ownership of the heirs, and endogamy within the bilateral kindred which substantially increased the chances of keeping hold of or re-uniting family property in one holding, 8 Ancient demographics 35 can plausibly be interpreted as an indication that some prosperous Athenians did seek to evade the fragmentation imposed by the inheritance system.
On the contrary, Spartan women, as has been reported by Cicero Tusc. II, 36 , refused to be burdened by continuous child production, despite the fact that this had been the longrange goal of their physical education. Especially the practices of wife-sharing and adelphic polyandry would have had the effect of constraining fertility, as well as the Spartiate custom of women typically marrying at a later age than in most Greek poleis, and these practices may well have been supplemented by more direct attempts of family limitation.
In addition, it is possible that families struggling on the borderline of citizen status would have given priority to maintaining their mess contributions, thereby limiting the nutritional provision for female and younger members of the household, which may have affected rates of fertility and child mortality.
Firstly, adoption distributed surviving sons throughout the citizenry, so that they could inherit the property and status of families without male heirs, and hence could be rescued from downward intergenerational mobility caused by the ill-fated reality of not being a sole heir. Deene is the story of Endios, who, as reported in Isaios 3 passim , was adopted by his uncle Pyrrhos, as a consequence of which he and his brother did not have equally to divide the inheritance left by their father.
As in other Greek poleis, a Spartan landowner without any surviving natural sons could adopt a male from another family to be heir to his property Her. VI, 57, 5. Yet, this does not rule out a potential difference in the frequency with which adoption was used as long-term family strategy in Athens and Sparta.
After all, the fact that men in Sparta and Athens might have faced slightly different levels of adult mortality, due to the specific characteristics of the much more restricted group of Spartiates, might have had an impact on the extent to which adoption was used as a means to escape patriline extinction at one side and impoverishment due to social fragmentation at the other side.
Despite the fact that fertility and inheritance strategies were not typical Athenian, we can, in a model where several underlying mechanisms might have interacted, therefore not exclude that these strategies played a role in generating greater in equality that was possibly cancelled out by other factors.
State-imposed mechanisms reducing wealth disparities With more certainty can be assumed that the distinctive situation in Athens was — whether or not next to other factors — engendered by a whole range of typically Athenian state-imposed mechanisms reducing the wealth disparities in Athenian society by causing both ends of the social scale to converge through economic redistribution.
Ancient demographics 37 In Athens, the rich were expected to contribute enough of their surplus wealth to allow the democracy to function and the polis to carry out its foreign policy. They were taxed by various means, the most important being the liturgies, the eisphora, and the fines imposed by the popular courts. As can be inferred from the evidence, an average festival liturgy cost between 1, and 3, drachmae, while a sole trierarchy, the most expensive liturgy, had a price-tag from 4, to 6, drachmae.
Presumably only the most wealthy Athenians were capable of meeting extensive public expenditure without breaking into their reserves or running into debt Is. Moreover, it occasionally occurred that they were required to pay at the very moment when the equipping of a fleet or the recruitment of the army made further calls on them e.
It is thus not surprising that the ancient sources contain an impressive range of associated references to undervaluing or concealing the ownership of property, and dodging of liturgies, in order to minimize the contribution of their property to the polis. Deene A similar pressure upon the rich might have been exerted by the punitive fines imposed by the popular courts.
V, 1, , appears, after his failure there, to have been prosecuted for embezzlement Aristoph. He was fined so heavily that, even after the confiscation of his estate, the sum of five talents remained unpaid until his death Dem.
Unable to pay his fine, he was imprisoned for many years Dem. Although this statement might be considered a cynical exaggeration, there is no doubt that in some cases, the persuasive skills of the prosecutor might have had as much as, or even more, impact on the jury as coherent reasoning based on facts, convincing enough to prove innocence in our judicial system.
Moreover, it was not uncommon for Athenians, both critics and speakers in the courts, to grumble about the fact that the popular courts condemned rich citizens merely in order to have their property paid over to the treasury, from whence it could be used to pay the poor for political participation e.
Rather than being taxed, they were indirectly subsidized by the rich when they were paid for hoplite service or rowing in the fleet, when they received state pay to serve 12 The rich likewise also paid for other sorts of economic benefits for the masses, such as the theorikon and all kinds of subsidies for invalids, war orphans and widows.
As remarked by Aristotle Pol. By reducing citizen poverty, it could counteract dissident ideas about enforcing economic equality. In Sparta, in contrast, the measures the polis used to draw upon the private property of its citizens had little effect on the unequal distribution of property. The mess dues imposed a significant material burden, but this surplus levy applied equally to every citizen, rich or poor. Only the communal use of horses and hunting dogs operated one-sidedly in favour of poor citizens, but even this encompassed no real material loss to their owners.
The eisphorai, introduced in the late fifth and early fourth centuries and the scope of which included other land besides that belonging to the Spartiates themselves, were met with strong resistance by the wealthy Spartiates. If we are to believe Aristotle, however, the latter were able to evade full payment of eisphorai with ease Arist. Classical Athens was one of the very few societies in the period BC — CE in which daily wages were substantially above of the so-called subsistence-level customary wage range.
For the second half of the fifth century, we have some evidence for daily wages of around 1 drachma for both skilled construction workers and military soldiers. At that time, wheat was sold for 5 to 6 drachmai per medimnos ca. Deene subsistence. For each distribution model, Ober has assumed a total population for Athens of just under a quarter-million persons, of which about a third were slaves, and about a tenth were resident foreigners.
J.K. Davies-Athenian Propertied Families, 600-300 B.C. (1971) (1).pdf
The bibliography below is more extensive than that actually used in research for the texts. It follows the system of abbreviations used in L'Annee Philologique. Mohr Paul Siebek , Tuebingen Oekonomische Anthropologie und die Theorie der griechischen Gesellschaft in der klassischen Zeit, Chiron 12
Athenian Propertied Families, 600-300 B.C. by J.K. Davies; G+
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Catalog Record: Athenian propertied families, 600-300 B.C | HathiTrust Digital Library