Athens and the Development of Documentary Record Keeping in the Classical Period
The article discusses Athens’ development of a “documentary habit” during the Classical period, which allowed modern historians to study the economic history of Athens in detail. The article also discusses the political revolution that took place in Athens with the establishment of a representative framework for Athenian political activity. However, the Athenian constitution was far more restricted than any modern European democracy, with women having no political role and Athenians still valuing their ancestral customs. The article also touches on several events in Greek history, including the Peloponnesian War, the Spartan attack on Thebes, and the founding of the new Messenian polis.
Table of Contents
- Athens’ Development of Documentary Record Keeping
- Political Revolution in Athens with Cleisthenic Constitution
- Athenian Democracy Restrictions
- The Gortynian Law-code and Spartan Women’s Rights
- Tensions between Athens and Other Greek City-States
- Peloponnesian War and its End
- Spartan Attack on Thebes and the Founding of New Messenian Polis
- Greeks’ Stories about Mythical Origins
What is Athens’ “documentary habit” and how did it help modern historians?
The “documentary habit” refers to Athens’ practice of recording various activities on stone during the Classical period, such as temple inventories, building accounts, property sales, and lists of casualties. Modern historians have been able to study the economic history of Athens in fine detail thanks to these records. Additionally, Athens set aside tithe from the tribute paid by allied states to Athena, which was recorded on monumental stone tablets. This wealth pouring into Athens helped create new political conditions that led to a political revolution, where a representative framework for Athenian political activity was set in place.
What was the political revolution in Athens like and what happened after it was established?
The political revolution in Athens included the establishment of a truly representative framework for Athenian political activity, with the revenues of empire being diverted towards daily salaries for councillors, public officials, and assembly attendees. This allowed probably as many as half of all male Athenians over the age of 30 to participate on the city’s advisory council. However, despite this progress, Athens’ constitution was still far more restricted than any modern European democracy. Women had no political role of any kind and were perpetual minors in law, unable to own property or represent themselves in court.
Did women have any rights at all in Athens?
Women were restricted in virtually all aspects of life in Classical Athens. Women had no political role of any kind and were perpetual minors in law. They were unable to own property or represent themselves in court. The Athenian ideal was that women were silent, obedient, good at sewing, and pasty-faced from permanent seclusion indoors. Although there was a major annual religious festival restricted to women only called the Thesmophoria, women were considerably worse off in Classical Athens than in most other parts of the Greek world.
What was the Gortynian law-code, and what rights did women have under it?
The Gortynian law-code was from fifth-century Crete, and it revealed that women in the city were allowed to own property, inherit property, divorce, marry, and even have free children with a male slave. Spartan women also shared similar rights and freedom, which was not well-received by Athenian observers. However, Athenians placed a high value on citizenship, which may have led to the repression of women and slave populations.
What tensions arose between Athens and other Greek city-states during the fifth century?
During the fifth century, tensions between Athens and other Greek city-states increased, with there being a diplomatic incident between Sparta and Athens where Sparta called on Athens for help against the helots but dismissed the Athenian force without explanation. Additionally, the war between Athens and Sparta was sparked by growing fear of Athenian power and ended with Athens surrendering in 404 BC. Sparta then attempted to regain its reputation as liberators with a campaign in western Asia Minor, but they were defeated by a Persian naval force.
What was the Spartan attack on Thebes and what were the consequences?
The Spartan attack on Thebes was an unprovoked violation of a sanctified area and wiped out what little remained of Sparta’s moral authority. The Thebans then took the monumental step of liberating Messenia from Spartan control, and a new autonomous polis of Messene was founded, providing us with a fascinating case of ethnogenesis.
Did the Greeks have any stories they told about their mythical origins?
Yes, the Greeks had certain stories they chose to tell about their mythical origins. The text briefly mentions the Greeks’ stories about their mythical origins but doesn’t provide significant detail.
Athens’ development of a “documentary habit” during the Classical period has allowed historians to study the economic history of Athens in detail. The establishment of a representative framework for Athenian political activity was revolutionary but limited, with women having no political role and Athenians valuing their ancestral customs. Tensions between Athens and other Greek city-states increased throughout the fifth century, and the war between Athens and Sparta ended with Athens surrendering in 404 BC. However, events like the Spartan attack on Thebes and the founding of the new Messenian polis provide fascinating case studies of ethnogenesis.