07 February 2010

Book: Alternatives to Athens

Edited by Roger Brock and Stephen Hodkinson and based on a series of seminars is the collection "Alternatives to Athens: Varieties of Political Organization and Community in Ancient Greece" (Oxford University Press, 2000):


Abstract: "In 1993 the world celebrated the 2500th anniversary of the birth of democracy in ancient Athens, whose polis – or citizen state – is often viewed as the model ancient Greek state. In an age when democracy has apparently triumphed following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, it tends to be forgetten [sic] that the democratic citizen state was only one of many forms of political community in Greek antiquity. This volume aims to redress the balance by showing that democratic Athens was not the model ancient Greek state, and focuses on a range of city states operating a variety of non-democratic political systems in the ancient Greek world. Eighteen essays by established and younger historians examine alternative political systems and ideologies: oligarchies, monarchies, and mixed constitutions, along with diverse forms of communal and regional associations such as ethnoi, amphiktyonies, and confederacies. The papers, which span the length and breadth of the Hellenic world from the Balkans and Anatolia to Magna Graecia and North Africa, highlight the immense political flexibility and diversity of ancient Greek civilization."

We probably shouldn't view Athens as much as the model for democracy as ancient Greece as the model for a world of competitive government – competing and coexistent forms of political
organization – that may yet return in our time.

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Roger Brock is now a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Leeds.

Stephen Hodkinson is now Professor of Ancient History at the University of Nottingham.

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