Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens

Hardcover | July 1, 2015

byDavid M. Pritchard

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In his On the Glory of Athens, Plutarch complained that the Athenian people spent more on the production of dramatic festivals and "the misfortunes of Medeas and Electras than they did on maintaining their empire and fighting for their liberty against the Persians." This view of the Athenians' misplaced priorities became orthodoxy with the publication of August Böckh's 1817 book Die Staatshaushaltung der Athener [The Public Economy of Athens], which criticized the classical Athenian dēmos for spending more on festivals than on wars and for levying unjust taxes to pay for their bloated government. But were the Athenians' priorities really as misplaced as ancient and modern historians believed?

Drawing on lines of evidence not available in Böckh's time, Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens calculates the real costs of religion, politics, and war to settle the long-standing debate about what the ancient Athenians valued most highly. David M. Pritchard explains that, in Athenian democracy, voters had full control over public spending. When they voted for a bill, they always knew its cost and how much they normally spent on such bills. Therefore, the sums they chose to spend on festivals, politics, and the armed forces reflected the order of the priorities that they had set for their state. By calculating these sums, Pritchard convincingly demonstrates that it was not religion or politics but war that was the overriding priority of the Athenian people.

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In his On the Glory of Athens, Plutarch complained that the Athenian people spent more on the production of dramatic festivals and "the misfortunes of Medeas and Electras than they did on maintaining their empire and fighting for their liberty against the Persians." This view of the Athenians' misplaced priorities became orthodoxy with...

Format:HardcoverDimensions:209 pages, 8.8 × 5.8 × 0.9 inPublished:July 1, 2015Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292772033

ISBN - 13:9780292772038

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsList of TablesList of AbbreviationsPreface1. Public-Spending Debates Festivals and Wars Democracy The Period of Eighty Years for Comparing Costs The Democratic Control of Public Spending The Synopsis of the Book2. The Cost of Festivals The Cost of the Great Panathenaea The Relative Scale of the Rest of the Festival Program The Full Cost of Festivals3. The Cost of Democracy Jurors Councilors Assemblygoers Magistrates Undersecretaries Public Slaves Gold Crowns Settling the Böckh-Jones Debate4. The Cost of War Public Spending on the Armed Forces in the 420s Military Spending in the Rest of the Peloponnesian War The Full Cost of the Armed Forces in the 370s Military Spending in the 460s5. Conclusion: Public-Spending PrioritiesNotesWorks CitedIndex of SourcesGeneral Index

Editorial Reviews

"To discover the real motives and values behind the representations of Classical Athenians, one must ‘follow the money.’ For the first time in two hundred years. David Pritchard throws open the ancient democracy’s ledgers to reveal where Athens’ real priorities lay. This wide-ranging investigation will bring profit to anyone who aspires to understand Athenian politics, mentality, or culture." - Csapo Eric, Professor of Classics, University of Sydney