Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens

Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens

by Ryan K. Balot

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Overview

In this original and rewarding combination of intellectual and political history, Ryan Balot offers a thorough historical and sociological interpretation of classical Athens centered on the notion of greed. Integrating ancient philosophy, poetry, and history, and drawing on modern political thought, the author demonstrates that the Athenian discourse on greed was an essential component of Greek social development and political history.


Over time, the Athenians developed sophisticated psychological and political accounts of acquisitiveness and a correspondingly rich vocabulary to describe and condemn it. Greed figures repeatedly as an object of criticism in authors as diverse as Solon, Thucydides, and Plato--all of whom addressed the social disruptions caused by it, as well as the inadequacy of lives focused on it. Because of its ethical significance, greed surfaced frequently in theoretical debates about democracy and oligarchy. Ultimately, critiques of greed--particularly the charge that it is unjust--were built into the robust accounts of justice formulated by many philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle. Such critiques of greed both reflected and were inextricably knitted into economic history and political events, including the coups of 411 and 404 B.C.


Balot contrasts ancient Greek thought on distributive justice with later Western traditions, with implications for political and economic history well beyond the classical period. Because the belief that greed is good holds a dominant position in modern justifications of capitalism, this study provides a deep historical context within which such justifications can be reexamined and, perhaps, found wanting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691220154
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 312
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Ryan K. Balot is Assistant Professor of Classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He has published articles on Chariton, Vergil, and Aristotle.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Abbreviations xi

Chapter 1. Introduction 1

Chapter 2. Greed in Aristotle's Political Thought 22

Greed and Unfairness in Distribution in Nicomachean Ethics 5 23

What Makes Human Beings Greedy? 34

Analyzing Greed in the Polis: Revolution, Civic Strife, and Distributive, Justice 44

Conclusion 55

Chapter 3. Solonian Athens and the Archaic Roots of Greed 58

Homer and Hesiod 59

Solon's Reform 73

Solon's Critique: The Problem of Acquisition and Unfairness 79

Chapter 4. Herodotus and the Greed of Imperialism 99

Eastern Imperialism 100

Greed and Fairness in the Panhellenic League 108

The Emergent Imperialism of Athens 114

Conclusion 129

Chapter 5. Thucydides, Greed, and the Breakdown of Political Community 136

Revolution at Corcyra: Greed, Leadership, and Civic Trust 137

Periclean Athens: Greedy Success 142

Human Nature, Democracy, and Greed 154

Post-Periclean Disintegration 159

Conclusion: The Ethics of Athenian Imperialism 172

Chapter 6. "Revolution Matters"? Oligarchic Rebellion and Democratic Hegemony in Athens 179

Athenian Culture in the Late Fifth Century: Unity and Division 180

The Revolution of 411: Speech, Mistrust, and Violence 211

The Revolution of 404: Greed and the Thirty 219

Responding to the Revolutions. Lysias and Xenophon 225

Chapter 7. Epilogue: Planto's Republic in Context 234

Bibliography 249

Index Locorum 273

General Index 279

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This book is excellent: original, well researched, and well written. Balot's approach is groundbreaking and entirely successful. The result is a project that crosses all sorts of disciplinary boundaries and is simultaneously an intellectual history and a political/economic history."—Charles Hedrick, University of California, Santa Cruz

"This is very much an intellectual history, but Balot's comparisons of different authors have much in common with the kinds of intertextual analyses of literary critics. This sets this very good and ambitious book apart from other recent work in Greek history."—Ian Morris, Stanford University

Charles Hedrick

This book is excellent: original, well researched, and well written. Balot's approach is groundbreaking and entirely successful. The result is a project that crosses all sorts of disciplinary boundaries and is simultaneously an intellectual history and a political/economic history.
Charles Hedrick, University of California, Santa Cruz

Ian Morris

This is very much an intellectual history, but Balot's comparisons of different authors have much in common with the kinds of intertextual analyses of literary critics. This sets this very good and ambitious book apart from other recent work in Greek history.
Ian Morris, Stanford University

Customer Reviews