Thursday, January 31, 2013


Tamiolaki on Maffi on Tamiolaki, Liberté et esclavage. Response to 2013.01.10

Response by Melina Tamiolaki, University of Crete (

Version at BMCR home site

I thank Professor Alberto Maffi for his review of my book,Liberté et esclavage chez les historiens grecs classiques, Paris, Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne 2010. His comments and criticisms definitely promote scholarly debate on a significant topic of Greek civilization. I would like, however, to address some points of the review, which give an unrepresentative picture of the purpose and content of my work.

1. Maffi finds insufficient my justification for studying the concepts of freedom and slavery in the works of the three major Greek historians of the classical period (Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon). In his opinion, "…in the three great historians a relationship between freedom and slavery is not always noticeable and, in any case, it is not even the main theme of their thought".

Leaving aside the fact that an examination of all sources (literary and non-literary), as AM seems to suggest, would clearly exceed the limits and scope of a monograph, it is hard not to conceive the relationship between freedom and slavery as crucial in the historical works of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon- which are, moreover, preserved in their entity: this is proved in the first place by the numerous occurrences of the terms related to freedom and slavery in their works 1 and further corroborated by their intertextual dialogue (e.g. Thucydides builds upon the Herodotean freedom and slavery antithesis in his description of the Athenian alliance; Xenophon further elaborates this scheme in his narrative about Sparta). More importantly, it is not by chance that the few specific studies which touch upon the topic of the interrelation of freedom and slavery, deal with the classical historians, and not, for instance, tragedy or Aristophanes.2 This direction of recent research thus legitimizes the systematic broadening of this perspective to these authors, which has been attempted in my book.

2. Maffi is right to note that the main focus of my work is literary; yet his final assertion that the book "did not lead … to a better understanding of the historical events described by them [the classical historians]"distracts attention from the occurrences in which I have proposed historical interpretations: for example, p.128-129 (about Aeginetan autonomia), p. 133-137 (about the liberation program of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War), p. 142-148 (about the identity of the Messenians of Naupactus), p. 150-152 (about the Athenians' views concerning the common perception of the helots and their allies as slaves), p. 160-181 (about the clause of autonomia, in the Peace of Antalcidas); I also advance suggestions about controversial issues concerning historical events in the footnotes. Furthermore, the appendices of the book are not "critical exegeses of two famous passages (Thuc. 1.101.1 and Xen. Hell., 3.3)", as Maffi notes, but offer historiographical and historical interpretations of two important events of Greek history: the revolt of the helots in 464 BC and the Cinadon conspiracy. Finally, Maffi's observation that "Persian history…plays an important role in the book, and yet the references are reduced to the synthetic works, though important, of Briant and Sancisi-Weerdenburg" is misleading, since the book obviously cites many more references on Persian history (such as the studies by J. M. Balcer, S. C. Brown, M. Flusin, A. K. Grayson, A. Kuhrt, C. Tuplin, J. Wiesehöfer).

3. Maffi remarks that the third part of the book "…is actually a small separate monograph on the philosophical and political thought of Xenophon". This statement, however, misinterprets the inclusion of all of Xenophon's works in my analysis by creating the impression that the third part of the book is not related to the previous two. Recent studies in Xenophon have emphasized the author's unity of thought. 3 In my work I pursue further this line of Xenophontic scholarship. I show the continuities and ruptures between the historical and philosophical thought of Xenophon concerning the concepts of freedom and slavery and explore their possible connections and divergences with the ideas of his predecessors.

4. Concerning the term nomos, Maffi comments: "I note that the references to the meaning of the term in the legal-historical context of the period appear to be very succinct, if not inaccurate, as, for example, on p. 221, n. 71, where Tamiolaki writes, among other things: 'De plus, la distinction entre la loi et la coutume n'est parfois que méthodologique, puisque la loi peutêtre considérée comme une évolution de la coutume, dénotant son expression juridique et politique dans une société organisée: ce qui est une pratique abstraite (la coutume) deviant ainsi une obligation concrète', a statement that no historian of the law would consider acceptable".

Nevertheless, the phrase Maffi cites is not given as a definition of law in ancient Greece, but as a tentative explanation of the (double) function of the term nomosin Herodotus' history. Finally, concerning the term "déconstruction", which according to Maffic rates confusion, I alert the reader (p. 76, n. 223) that this word is employed in the book as a more marked alternative for the word "challenge, contest".


1.   To mention just the words stemming from eleuth- and doul-, for the former the TLG gives 80 occurrences in Herodotus, 101 in Thucydides and 134 in Xenophon; for the latter, 96 in Herodotus, 78 in Thucydides and 115 in Xenophon. Of course, the terminology of slavery is more varied. See further in my book, Liberté et esclavage chez les historiens grecs classiques, (Paris, Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne 2010), « tableau de terminologie de la liberté et d'esclavage », p. 418-430.
2.   Mainly the book of P. Hunt, Slaves, Warfare and Ideology in the Greek historians,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998) and the article of K. A. Raaflaub, "Freedom for the Messenians? A Note on the Impact of Slavery and Helotage on the Greek Concept of Freedom", in N. Luraghi-S.Alcock (eds.), Helots and their Masters in Laconia and Messenia,(Cambridge (Mass)/London: Harvard University Press 2003), p. 169-190.
3.   Besides the studies collected in the recent volume by F. Hobden and Chr. Tuplin (eds.), Xenophon: Ethical Principles and Historical Enquiry,(Leiden/Boston : Brill's 2012), the books of V. Azoulay, Xénophon et les grâces du pouvoir. De la charisau charisme,(Paris : Publications de la Sorbonne 2004), P. Pontier, Trouble et ordre chez Platon et Xénophon,(Paris : Vrin2006), and more recently of V. Gray, Xenophon's Mirror of Princes. Reading the Reflections,Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011), are fine examples of this tendency of recent scholarship.

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