Friday, January 17, 2014


Pierre Fröhlich, Patrice Hamon (ed.), Groupes et associations dans les cités grecques (IIIe siècle av. J.-C.-IIe siècle ap. J.-C). Actes de la table ronde de Paris, INHA, 19-20 juin 2009. Hautes études du monde gréco-romain, 49. Genève: Librairie Droz, 2013. Pp. 338. ISBN 9782600013703. $52.80.

Reviewed by Christian A. Thomsen, University of Copenhagen (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

The volume is the result of a table ronde held in Paris in 2009. It opens with an introduction by the editors outlining the aims and methodology of the volume. The volume is dedicated to the study of groups and associations below the level of the polis, which display "une identité commune proclamée, des buts affichés, des institutions, des pratiques collectives régulières et des cultes communs" (p. 14). In recent years, the subject of associations has enjoyed a revival, as demonstrated by the editors' short review of the literature (to which the recent works by Kloppenborg and Ascough as well as Ismard must now be added).1 It is the ambition of the editors through this theme to push beyond Athens, Delos and Rhodes and to replace a history of "Hellenistic society" with one of "Hellenistic societies" (p. 8-9).

Part One, "Types et practiques", contains four contributions. After noting difficulties of terminology Riet van Bremen proceeds to situate the neoi within the social and political life of the cities they inhabited. Taking her departure from the well-known stories of conflict between neoi and their fellow citizens in Termessos and Gortyn, van Bremen demonstrates how neoi asserted themselves (sometimes even violently) as independent associations within the citizen body (though, as van Bremen duly notes, how and to what extent these were formally organised is often difficult to assess) with their own interests and politics. On other occasions the neoi might place themselves in line with their city and even act as benefactors to the city, all the while displaying a keen awareness of themselves as separate group.

The contribution by Pierre Fröhlich deals with groups of presbyteroi, proceeding from a detailed study of the group in Iasos for which the evidence is extensive. At Iasos the presbyteroi constituted a formal association with their own officials, formal procedures for collective decision-making and common funds. Collectively the members pursued a strategy of visibility and broadcasted their activities widely throughout their city. Membership, the author suggests, was limited and possibly served as a stepping-stone for membership in the gerousia (from which they, as a group, should be distinguished). An annexe of epigraphic evidence with commentary and translations concludes the contribution.

Léopold Migeotte reviews a number of epidoseis by private associations from several places. The author stresses the exceptionality of the epidoseis as a means of generating income for the associations, since additional funds would in many cases be needed, and points to their symbolic importance for shaping group identity, but also for providing occasion for the display of private wealth and generosity of wealthy members. Migeotte demonstrates that the subscription habit of private associations peaks in the third and second centuries in apparent imitation of the polis, but points to an early example in the fourth century BCE and raises the intriguing suggestion (first made in his seminal study of the public subscriptions)2 that, in this case at least, private associations shaped the practice of the polis and not vice versa.

The first part of the volume concludes with Anne-Valérie Pont's study of neighbourhood associations in the cities of Imperial Asia Minor. Pont argues that neighbourhood associations were formal associations with elected officials and common funds. Furthermore, it is argued that neighbourhood associations, especially those of wealthy neighbourhoods, enjoyed the patronage of members of the locale elites and might serve as power bases. A list of evidence arranged by locale is appended to the contribution.

Part two, "Études de cas", contains six contributions each focusing on a particular place and the associations within it. Drawing on his earlier prosopographical study of Athenian ephebes,3 Éric Perrin-Saminadayar argues that the Athenian ephebate provided elite families with an important public display window. Often sons were sent together in a single year, and often in a year in which their father held an official charge in the gymnasium to ensure maximum exposure. Equally significant, the ephebate was an important social junction for sons of the Athenian elite. Eventually, the networking opportunities offered by the ephebate were furthered by the enrolment of foreigners whose own networks extended into elite circles of other cities and even the courts of kings.

Paulin Ismard's contribution (which is an adaptation of the similarly titled chapter of his recent book)4 discusses the importance of the late Hellenistic and Roman Attic gene for the establishing of an Athenian aristocracy. The second and first centuries BCE saw the gene rise in prominence driven by elite families. Ismard demonstrates how gene-membership was employed to connect the elite to the city's past and to lend credibility to claims of eugeneia. Patterns of marriages and adoptions elucidate strategies of acquiring access to other gene and some families' accumulation of gene-membership over the generations and through them the creation of an Athenian aristocracy.

Stephanie Maillot introduces the private associations of Cos. She discusses cultic and funerary aspects of the associations, many of which carry a theophoric name, such as Aphrodisiatai. These Maillot assigns to a category of "associations cultuelles", as opposed to professional associations in which she is inclined to see not associations proper, but social groups. By analogy with Rhodian associations the common practice of adopting the name of an influential member (expressed as "hoi syn" plus a personal name) is interpreted as a device for the stratification of Coan society. A useful list of Coan associations with references to the evidence is provided in an annexe.

The Delian associations of the period of Athenian rule are perhaps among the most famous. In this contribution, however, Marie-Françoise Baslez examines the associations which are attested for the period of independence. Though the evidence from this period is limited Baslez identifies a line of development for associations on Delos: at first these were loosely organised groups formed for the purpose of setting up a single honorific monument. Later they met more regularly and acquired property, and eventually adopted the familiar polis-inspired organisational form. The last development coincided with the end of Delian independence and was probably influenced by Athenian associational habits.

Thibaut Boulay examines the voluntary associations of Teos on the basis of funerary monuments. A wide range of associations is attested, including groups associated with the gymnasium, cultic associations and boards of magistrates. The presence of associations in funerary epigraphy reflects their importance for social life. In one case a single individual is found to have been a leading member of no less than three different associations and therefore a person of social significance, perhaps also political since the same man is possibly the brother of an important civic magistrate. The epigraphic evidence is helpfully presented throughout the text.

Madalina Dana and Dan Dana return the reader to the gymnasium and to the ephebes, but this time in Dionysopolis and Odessos on the Black Sea Coast. On the basis of onomastic evidence from inscribed lists of ephebes dating to the imperial period (the principal evidence is included in an annexe), the authors argue that the ephebate in both cities played a vital part in the integration of the non-Greek population. The ratio of ephebes with indigenous names and/or patronymics to those with Greek names in Odessos and (especially) Dionysopolis is significantly higher than in other cities in the Balkan region. Though several notable citizens, known from other sources, are found among the ephebes, the relatively high number of ephebes in both cities contradicts the notion that the ephebate was restricted to the highest echelons only. Consequently, the ephebate contributed also to social integration.

The volume as a whole has many merits. Firstly, the geographic space covered and the attention drawn to the 'associations phenomenon' outside the well-known hotspots of Athens, Delos and Rhodes is very valuable. The care given to present the epigraphic evidence in overview or in full will be most helpful to other scholars pursuing similar questions and supports the ambition of the editors, set out in the introduction, that the volume may contribute to a broadening of research on Hellenistic society and societies. Furthermore, the contributions are tied together by the one association considered by every contributor: the polis. The volume, it might be said, is in fact about the polis. Across the contributions the role played by groups and associations in shaping the social and political life of the poleis which they inhabited is at the centre of attention. The implicit argument is that the polis as a form of state cannot be detached from society and that society in turn is shaped by a number of institutions, sometimes closely attached to those of the state, sometimes wholly independent of it (indeed, quite a few of the groups and associations treated in the volume are not easily assigned to the category 'private' or 'public'). That view of the polis has much in common with Aristotle's observation (NE 8.9.4-6) that associations (koinoniai) form parts of the polis association and constitutes, as the volume here under review well demonstrates, an interesting and rewarding approach to the study of the (Hellenistic) polis.

Table of Contents

Pierre Fröhlich and Patrice Hamon: Introduction. Histoire sociale et phénomène associatif dans les cités grecques d'époque hellénistique et impériale.
Riet van Bremen: Neoi in Hellenistic cities: age class, institution, association?
Pierre Fröhlich: Les groupes du gymnase d'Iasos et les presbytéroi dans les cités à l'époque hellénistique
Léopold Migeotte: Les souscriptions dans les associations privées
Anne-Valérie Pont: Les groupes de voisinage dans les villes d'Asie Mineure occidentale à l'époque impériale
Éric Perrin-Saminadayar: Stratégies collectives, familiales et individuelles en oeuvre au sein de l'éphébie attique: l'instrumentalisation d'une institution publique (IIIe s. av. J.-C.-IIe s. apr. J.-C.)
Paulin Ismard: Les génè athéniens de la basse époque hellénistique: naissance d'une aristocratie?
Stéphanie Maillot: Les associations à Cos
Marie-Françoise Baslez: Les associations à Délos: depuis les débuts de l'Indépendance (fin du IVe siècle) à la période de la colonie athénienne (milieu du IIe siècle)
Thibaut Boulay: Les "groupes de référence" au sein du corps civique de Téos
Madalina Dana and Dan Dana: L'intégration des indigènes dans les structures civiques de deux cités du Pont Gauche à l'époque impériale
Léopold Migeotte: Conclusion


1.   J. Kloppenborg and R. Ascough. Greco-Roman associations, texts, translations, and commentary. Berlin. 2011; P. Ismard. La cité des réseaux: Athènes et ses associations VIe-Ie siècle av. J.-C. Paris. 2010.
2.   L. Migeotte, Les souscriptions publiques dans les cités grecques . Geneva. 1992.
3.   E. Perrin-Saminadayar, Éducation, culture et société à Athènes. Les acteurs de la vie culturelle athénienne (229-88). Un tout petit monde. De l'archéologie à l'histoire . Paris. 2007.
4.   See note 1.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for this review. Is there a list of all the known communities that had "polis" status in the Roman empire, and of the dates during which they had that status?


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