4 April 2017

Citizenship in Classical Athens

In Citizenship in Classical Athens, Prof. Josine Blok (Ancient History and Classical Civilization) proposes a new view of citizenship in classical Athens, bringing together hitherto fundamentally distinct approaches to the classical community.

Men's politics

What did citizenship really mean in classical Athens? It is conventionally understood as characterised by holding political office. Since only men could do so, only they were considered to be citizens, and the community (polis) has appeared primarily as the scene of men's political actions. However, Athenian law defined citizens not by political office, but by descent.

Prof. dr. Josine Blok
Prof. dr. Josine Blok

Equal heirs

Religion was central to the polis and in this domain, women played prominent public roles. Both men and women were called 'citizens'. On a new reading of the evidence, Blok argues that for the Athenians, their polis was founded on an enduring bond with the gods. Laws anchored the polis' commitments to humans and gods in this bond, transmitted over time to male and female Athenians as equal heirs. All public offices, in various ways and as befitting gender and age, served both the human community and the divine powers protecting Athens.