Beyond Thucydides

New Approaches to Athenian Imperialism

Eric Driscoll

University of California, Berkeley

Drawing on overlooked genres of evidence and new theoretical approaches, my research illuminates how the fifth-century Athenian empire was not a stable, monolithic entity but, rather, a bundle of systems and processes that interacted and competed in complex ways. Athenian imperialism, I argue, attempted to control the collision of autonomous religious and economic systems and to subsume them within an imperial politics; but in so doing, it left itself open to contestation as well as accommodation in the languages of those systems. In this lecture, I explore some of the concrete domains in which the meaning of the Athenian empire was created and contested. As I argue by examining evidence ranging from Clazomenian sarcophagi to odes composed by Pindar, elites in different parts of the Aegean world respond differently to Athenian imperialism over the first few decades of the empire's existence. In the rich cities of Ionia they gave way before democratic pressures emanating from Athens, while elites living in the Cyclades and other Aegean islands were more inclined to contest Athenian hegemony. I close by considering the ambiguities of Athenian imperialism in a broader, comparative perspective.

Eric Driscoll is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. A specialist in Greek epigraphy, art history, and archaeology, Eric received his B.A. in Classics in 2010 from the University of Chicago. He has excavated at several sites throughout Greece, most recently as a trenchmaster at Azoria in eastern Crete, and was a member of a team studying fragmentary Classical sculpture found in the Athenian Agora. He held the John Williams White Fellowship at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, where he resided for two years, and has also participated in formal doctoral training through the French School at Athens. His article "Stasis and Reconciliation: Politics and Law in Fourth-Century Greece," dealing with an important new inscription recording the resolution of civil strife in a small city called Dikaia, was published in 2016 by Chiron, the journal of the Commission for Ancient History and Epigraphy of the German Archaeological Institute.

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