A City of Rivals: Civic Notables and the Creation of the Hellenistic World

Lindberg, Nicholas, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lendon, Ted, History, University of Virginia

The goal of this dissertation is to consider how local competition and changes in elite self-representation led to the decline of city-state democracy in the Hellenistic period. It argues that the desire of local notables to succeed within city-state democracies created patterns of behavior that undermined the unarticulated norms upon which those democracies were based.
The first chapter of the dissertation examines the seizure of tyrannical power, arguably the most “anti-democratic” behavior a notable could exhibit. The second and third chapters examine another well-attested type of seemingly anti-democratic behavior: the display of tryphē, or luxury, especially as it was exhibited in domestic architecture (Chapter 2), as well as clothing, jewelry, and perfume (Chapter 3). Both autocracy and ostentation, it is argued, are the products of competition within the city, rather than imports from royal courts. Politically ambitious men used their clout with the assembly to marginalize or exile their opponents (and thus were labelled tyrants by those opponents), and used their wealth to show themselves as ideal benefactors and representatives of the city abroad.
The next two chapters examine the ways in which local notables co-opted or fostered connections between poleis in order to increase their own prestige. Chapter four examines the role that elite competition played in the formation of Hellenistic federations, while the fifth chapter considers Hellenistic inter-polis diplomacy more generally, looking at how certain notables used embassies to further their political ambitions. The creation of these international connections fostered a sense of communal identity among the men forging them, creating a unified Hellenic elite, whose members saw they had more in common with each other than with their fellow citizens.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Hellenistic History, Democracy, Tyranny, Luxury
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