Athens and the Attic Demes

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Athens and the Attic Demes

Type: Master thesis
Title: Athens and the Attic Demes
Author: Hendriks, Luke
Issue Date: 2012-08-31
Keywords: Athens
Abstract: In this thesis the political, social, demographical and geographical relationships between the demes of Attica and the city of Athens are investigated. Because of the size of the polis and the political organization of it Athens was an anomaly in the ancient world. Democracy was first implemented in Attica in 508/7 and therefore Athens played a unique role in history. The large number of settlements, or demes, that together formed the polis of Athens shared political power in the Ecclesia and the Boulé and although this power was never divided among them equally, the system worked for almost two centuries. Many demes housed larger populations than a normal-sized polis outside of Attica did so we must wonder how they were organized and how their size influenced their political power in the polis of Athens. Through archaeological remains and written sources the importance of several unique demes is clarified and the balance of power that existed in democratic Athens is confirmed. Through research we come to find out that very large demes located in the rural or coastal areas could very well have less political power than a much smaller deme within the city-walls of Athens. The reason for this is simple, the Ecclesia, or assembly, was the only legislative power in the polis and the great majority of its members came from the direct vicinity of the city since they were the only ones able to participate in the democratic processes of the polis on a daily basis. The rural and coastal areas of Attica therefore wielded less legislative power despite their superiority in numbers of inhabitants. Through equal representation in the Boulé the demes retained a certain amount of power though so the system, that was implemented by Kleisthenes in 508/7, essentially worked.
Supervisor: Bintliff, John
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Master)
Specialisation: Mediterranean Archaeology
ECTS Credits: 20

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