Professor of History
I am currently working on a book on property in the ancient Greek world, both private and public. I explore Greek ideas about the nature and proper social functions of private property, which recognize private property as an instrument for material self-sufficiency that enmeshed the owner in a web of social obligations and endowed him with significant forms of social power. This way of thinking about property as a profoundly and inextricably social phenomenon runs counter to the prevailing modern notion of property, inherited in slightly different versions from the utilitarian and contractarian philosophical traditions, which focuses exclusively on the owner and his control over valuable goods. Recovering Greek conceptions of property as a social phenomenon invites us to examine both the informal norms and the formal institutions that governed property in Greek states, to see how practices correlated to ideas. I argue that private property functioned as a crucial instrument in regulating the fraught relationship between individual and community in Greek states, which can be seen in the construction of citizenship and its obligations and in its inverse, the confiscation of property from citizens in processes of disenfranchisement and expulsion. Public property, too, was governed by strong norms that flowed from widespread ideas about its function, yet for such a pervasive social and political structure, the institutions that governed and were meant to protect public property were surprisingly weak. I consider a range of ways in which cities themselves were conceived and handled as material assets, including a study of the alienation of entire cities and its implications.
My first book, Creating a Common Polity (Berkeley, 2013), explores the origin, development, and nature of the so-called Greek federal state, the koinon, through in-depth analysis of evidence from Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. I argue that in these cases political federation, which entailed the partial sacrifice of autonomy by independent city-states, originated as a formalization of older patterns of cooperation and interdependence in the religious and economic spheres. Over time, I suggest, the involvement of these regional states in the economic practices of their individual citizens and constituent communities developed to enhance the economic integration of the region and to promote regional economic welfare. Religion was not a primitive context for community-building, but rather a vital mechanism for legitimizing the regional state and for maintaining its cohesiveness in the face of challenges, threats, and historical changes. Varieties in the distribution of political power among the states studied here, as well as changes occurring over time, point toward one of the most important political features of strong and successful federal states in Greek antiquity. It was vital that member poleis andkoinon hold one another accountable for breaches made in the federal bargain, the agreement about how power was to be distributed among them. In a series of articles I have written about matters related to the federal experience, from detailed epigraphic studies to analyses of the relationship between ethnic identity and the formation of federal states.
I continue to be interested in the federal states of the Greek world, as well as other varieties of social and political cooperation, interdependence, and dependence. One form this work has taken is an exploration of the nature and limits of polis autonomy in the Greek world. In “Wandering Cities” (AJA 2006) I explored the causes and mechanisms of the abandonment of cities in the Greek world and the fate of their inhabitants. The frequency with which cities were abandoned, and the relative ease with which populations relocated, highlights the evanescent nature of urban life in the ancient Mediterranean. In 2008 I co-authored a paper with Peter van Alfen on “Cooperative Coinage” that exposed the frequency with which ancient cities cooperated to produce coins with common types on common weight standards. We explained this phenomenon not as the product of political subordination but of economic interdependence and cooperation.
PhD, Princeton University, 2003 (Classics)
MA, Princeton University, 2000 (Classics)
BA, University of Oxford, 1997 (Literae Humaniores)
BA, St. John's College, 1994
External Fellowships & Grants
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2012-2013.
Loeb Classical Library Foundation Grant, Harvard University, 2008, 2012.
National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Stipend, 2005.
Whiting Honorific Fellowship in the Humanities, 2002-2003.
Fulbright-IIE Full Grant to Greece, 2000-2001.
Series co-editor (with James Ker), Social Structures of the Greco-Roman World, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012-2019.
Committee on Ancient History, American Philological Association, 2010-2013.
Managing Committee, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 2008-
Creating a Common Polity: Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon. Berkeley, 2013. Winner of the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit from the Society for Classical Studies, 2016.
|Greek Epigraphy and Religion: Papers in Memory of Sara B. Aleshire from the Second North American Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy. Leiden, 2021.|
"Ethnic Arguments." in H. Beck, K. Buraselis, and A. McAuley, eds. 2019. Ethnos and Koinon: Studies in Ancient Greek Ethnicity and Federalism. Stuttgart, 11-28.
"Property Security and its Limits in Classical Greece." Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science, edited by M. Canevaro et al., Edinburgh, 2018, 315-343.
“Property Claims and State Formation in the Archaic Greek World,” in C. Ando and S. Richardson, eds., 2017. Ancient States and Infrastructural Power: Europe, Asia, and America. Philadelphia, 63-90.
"Propiedad, deuda y revolución en la Grecia antigua" in M. Campagno, J. Gallego, and C.G. MacGaw, eds., Capital, deuda, y desigualidad: Distribuciones de la riqueza en el Mediterráneo antiguo. Buenos Aires, 27-53.
"The Economics of Federation in Ancient Greece" in H. Beck & P. Funke, eds., 2015. Greek Federal States. Cambridge, 487-502.
"The Greek Polis and Koinon" in A. Monson and W. Scheidel, eds. 2015. Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States, 469-491. Cambridge, 469-491.
"Ethnos and Koinon" in J. McInerney, ed. 2014. A Companion to Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford, 270–284.
"Creating a Common Polity in Boeotia" in N. Papazarkadas, ed., 2014. The Epigraphy and History of Boeotia: New Finds, New Prospects. Leiden, 45–67.
“The Greek Koinon,” in P. Bang and W. Scheidel, edd., 2012. The Oxford Handbook of the Ancient State: Near East and Mediterranean. Oxford, 304-323.
“A Boiotian Proxeny Decree and Relief in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Boiotian-Lakonian Relations in the 360s.” Chiron. Mitteilungen der Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. 38 (2008) 157-194.
Coauthor with P. van Alfen, “Cooperative Coinage,” in P. van Alfen, ed. 2006. Agoranomia: Studies in Money and Exchange Presented to John H. Kroll. New York, 201-246.
“Wandering Cities: Alternatives to Catastrophe in the Greek Polis,”American Journal of Archaeology 108.4 (2004): 493-516.