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The Limits of Altruism in Democratic Athens


  • Date Published: November 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107029774

£ 90.00

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About the Authors
  • Athenians in the classical period (508–322 BC) were drawn to an image of themselves as a compassionate and generous people who rushed to the aid of others in distress, both at home and abroad. What relation does this image bear to actual Athenian behavior? This book argues that Athenians felt little pressure as individuals to help fellow citizens whom they did not know. Democratic ideology called on citizens to refrain from harming one another rather than to engage in mutual support, and emphasized the importance of the helping relationship between citizen and city rather than among individual citizens. If the obligation of Athenians to help fellow citizens was fairly tenuous, all the more so was their responsibility to intervene to assist the peoples of other states; a distinct pragmatism prevailed in the city's decisions concerning intervention abroad.

    • Uniquely examines private social bonds in the context of civic bonds and explores what this meant for ancient Athenian democracy
    • Provides a strong contribution to the growing body of scholarship on ancient Athenian emotions, values, behaviors, and other facets of daily life
    • Uses source evidence to present an original portrait of the ancient Athenians
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A fine bibliography and excellent indexes augment this well-produced effort. Summing up: highly recommended.' Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107029774
    • length: 223 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the philanthropic Athenian?
    1. Helping behavior in classical Athens
    2. Helping and democratic citizenship
    3. Helping and community in the Athenian law courts
    4. 'Helping others' in Athenian interstate relations
    Conclusion: helping and the Athenian experience.

  • Author

    Matthew Christ, Indiana University
    Matthew R. Christ is Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University. He is author of The Bad Citizen in Classical Athens (2006) and The Litigious Athenian (1998).

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