A Citizen as a Slave of the State? by Melina Tamiolaki

In Europe, government, history, philosophy, politics, society on April 24, 2013 at 07:24

From: A Citizen as a Slave of the State? Oligarchic Perceptions of Democracy in Xenophon by Melina Tamiolaki, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies,

One of the criticisms leveled at the Athenian democratic constitution, though not so prominent in comparison with other criticisms, was that it imposed
burdensome obligations to its wealthy citizens. The most important among these obligations were the liturgies—the choregia and the trierarchia—and the eisphora. The attitude of the wealthy towards these obligations was ambivalent: on the one hand, these services constituted a source of prestige and glory and confirmed their high status (especially the choregia, which had a strong public and performative aspect). On the other, they also aroused complaints, since they fostered the impression that the city exploited its wealthy citizens financially. These complaints were institutionalized in ancient Athens: Attic oratory provides rich evidence about the procedure of the antidosis, by which a wealthy citizen could avoid a liturgy by indicating a wealthier one, and hence more suitable, to undertake it.

… Charmides, a wealthy Athenian citizen, explains why, in his opinion, being poor secures a more peaceful life than being rich. More provocatively, he claims that by being poor, he resembles a tyrant, because he is absolutely free, whereas before he was clearly a slave:
“Your turn, Charmides,” said Callias, “to say why you take pride in poverty.” “Well,” he said, “there is agreement as fol lows, that it is better to be brave than fearful, to be free than a slave, to receive attentions than give them, and to be trusted by one’s country than distrusted. Now when I was a rich man inthis town, first of all I was fearful that people might break into my house and take my property and do me some personal hurt..”

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies


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