Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece
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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.
that because of his misfortune during his generalship at Amphipolis Thucydides probably did not return home and that we cannot say whether he was later condemned to death or exile in Athens. The later bibliographical tradition reports that Thucydides was banished by the Athenians (Marcell. Vita Thuc. 23, 46) or was 180 CHAPTER FOUR Several cases of sacrilege (a˘sebeia) resulted in exile either by conviction or by choice. The Alcmeonidae, around 600 b.c.e., had been sentenced to perpetual
eager to prosecute the murder and/or were sympathetic to the political aims of the Cylonian conspiracy. In that case, they may have been only too glad to drive the magistrates out of Athens through the threat of retaliatory murder. There are, however, several pieces of evidence to weigh against a complete identity of interests between the opponents of Megacles and the families of the dead Cylonians. First, as we have seen, Cylon was supported in his attempt at tyranny by a small band of elites,
location of the trial in a public place), Draco’s law gave further powers to public ofﬁcials and the community at large in determining the outcome of the dispute. In particular, the role of the e˘ fetai in determining the intent of the killer seems to be new with Draco’s law, and gives these ofﬁcials an important role in determining the likelihood that the killer will be pardoned and hence be able to return to Athens. In addition, the provision that the e˘ fetai have the power to appoint a
behalf of injured persons (u˙pe¡ r t wv a˘ dikoumevwv).69 By allowing anyone to prosecute on behalf of a wronged person, Solon ensured that even cases in which the injured party was unable to prosecute (e.g., when a person was enslaved or exiled) would still be heard. This measure provided a further guarantee to weak and poor Athenians that their new rights to freedom and residence in Attica would be protected. Furthermore, the law encouraged a new civic-minded attitude 67 Arist. Ath. Pol.
fundamental change in the balance of power between elites and non-elites. I argue that independent non-elite intervention in intra-elite politics of exile was the necessary precondition for the assumption of political power by the Athenian masses. In the next chapter, I show that the democratic institution of ostracism symbolized the key role that non-elite control over decisions of exile played in the transition to democratic rule. Before turning to these arguments, a brief summary of our