Remembering Defeat: Civil War and Civic Memory in Ancient Athens
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In 404 BCE the Peloponnesian War finally came to an end, when the Athenians, starved into submission, were forced to accept Sparta's terms of surrender. Shortly afterwards a group of thirty conspirators, with Spartan backing ("the Thirty"), overthrew the democracy and established a narrow oligarchy. Although the oligarchs were in power for only thirteen months, they killed more than 5 percent of the citizenry and terrorized the rest by confiscating the property of some and banishing many others. Despite this brutality, members of the democratic resistance movement that regained control of Athens came to terms with the oligarchs and agreed to an amnesty that protected collaborators from prosecution for all but the most severe crimes.
The war and subsequent reconciliation of Athenian society has been a rich field for historians of ancient Greece. From a rhetorical and ideological standpoint, this period is unique because of the extraordinary lengths to which the Athenians went to maintain peace. In Remembering Defeat, Andrew Wolpert claims that the peace was "negotiated and constructed in civic discourse" and not imposed upon the populace. Rather than explaining why the reconciliation was successful, as a way of shedding light on changes in Athenian ideology Wolpert uses public speeches of the early fourth century to consider how the Athenians confronted the troubling memories of defeat and civil war, and how they explained to themselves an agreement that allowed the conspirators and their collaborators to go unpunished. Encompassing rhetorical analysis, trauma studies, and recent scholarship on identity, memory, and law, Wolpert's study sheds new light on a pivotal period in Athens' history.
THE HISTORICAL SETTING Orators frequently portrayed Solon as the founder of the democracy, attributing to him constitutional reforms, which were the hallmark of the fourth-century democracy. Some revisions, such as the creation of boards of the nomothetai, were quite recent, but still the Athenians referred to them as Solon’s. And, except for the homicide law of Draco, any law could be attributed to Solon, regardless of its date.≥≠ In 400, for example, Andocides attributed to Solon the decree
violated the established laws. In a sense, he was arguing that the laws did not make an act a crime, but the Athenians intuitively recognized certain acts as crimes and established laws to prescribe penalties for such acts. A just decision was therefore easily obtainable. The members of the Council needed only to consider whether they approved or disapproved of Philon’s conduct. In a section from Lysias 26 that has already been used to illustrate the ambiguities of the reconciliation, the
men of the city remained, for the most part, uninvolved in the oligarchy. These ﬁctions allowed the Athenians to believe that Athens was uniﬁed in spite of the civil war. Yet this blending of remembering and forgetting remained ∞∞∫ F CIVIC MEMORY precarious because it depended upon the coexistence of competing and contradictory representations of the past. The Athenians could just as easily have used the past to construct division. conclusion Disgruntled citizens were able both to profess
ﬁfth-century democracy, he maintained that the democratic leaders were responsible for defeat and civil war.π By alienating Athenian allies and by factionalizing the community through their sycophantic activities, they weakened Athenian military power and created the dissension the Thirty needed to seize control of the city. Yet the candidate was also careful to direct his criticism against corrupt democratic leaders, and not the demos. Excluded from the amnesty, the Thirty were the most
applied to the whole community. Clinton (1982: 28–35) suggests that the anagrapheis published the laws of Draco and Solon which were still in force and any subsequent revisions and/or additions to the Solonian code, but they ignored any post-Solonian legislation that did not a√ect the Solonian code ∞∑∏ 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. F N O T E S T O PA G E S 3 8 – 3 9 (cf. Oliver [1935: 6]). Hansen (1990a: 64–68) agrees with Clinton that the anagrapheis prepared the