New and Old Allegiances on Display: law, religion, oath and civic participation in the Hellenistic polis


This thesis explores the practice of displaying oaths in Hellenistic Greece when negotiating civic privilege. Citizenship oaths, or oaths of allegiance, are familiar to us from our modern societies, for example in ceremonies of naturalization. In Classical Greece, oaths were regularly sworn (and less regularly inscribed) to formalize the admittance of young men into the citizen body. However, in inscriptions that record other occasions when new members joined the citizen body, oaths were not usually mentioned. This raises questions about the purpose of swearing and inscribing oaths in a variety of contexts. First, the thesis begins to explore to what extent habits of inscribed references to oaths in the Classical period persisted in the Hellenistic, and to what extent these habits changed in response to the political and social developments. This question is then extended to oaths relating to civic privilege in particular, with attention to each of the situations where oaths might be inscribed: for the native-born attaining maturity, for outsiders awarded new privileges, for grants of citizenship to groups of people, for reaffirming civic unity, and more. Throughout, oath-practices at Athens are compared with those of other cities. A couple of conclusions emerge from these chapters. For one thing, across the Classical and Hellenistic periods, Athens was particularly reluctant to inscribe oaths in the context of civic privilege. At other cities, on the other hand, the political developments of the increasingly cosmopolitan Hellenistic period were reflected in inscriptional oath-practices. In particular, oaths could be inscribed as part of the treaties of shared citizenship which became much more common in the Hellenistic period. Finally, the last chapter turns toward the implications of inscribing oaths, with a hope of justifying the patterns of Hellenistic epigraphical oath-habits. Through examining possible legal, religious and "practical" reasons to swear and display oaths, this chapter concludes that public inscriptions of oaths well served to mediate the complex relationships and multiple allegiances, both within a single city and among networks of cities, in the Hellenistic period.
Senior thesis (AB)--Brown University, 2020
Concentration: Classics: Greek and Latin

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Nacar, Sylvia E., "New and Old Allegiances on Display: law, religion, oath and civic participation in the Hellenistic polis" (2020). Classics Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.