Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - History & Philosophy

Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Brian Swain

N/A

Abstract (300 words maximum)

The fifth-century BCE is a period of Athenian history that is bookended by conflict. It began with the Persian Wars, which established Athens as a major power and gave them claim to their empire. The period ended with the Peloponnesian War, which resulted in the defeat of Athens and the end of their imperial reign. The fifth-century was a period of unprecedented cultural, political, and ideological development, and is one of the most important periods in all of Greek history. Despite the various developments that occurred in the fifth-century, most of the scholarship on fifth-century Athens is concerned with the Athenian political system, demokratia. It is hard to find work on Athens that does not insinuate that the cultural flourishing and development in the fifth-century was inherently a result or expression of democracy. However, when Athenians portrayed themselves in the abstract, democracy was not commonly evoked. Instead, it was their autochthony (ethnic purity), military power, and empire that both the Athenians and others most readily associated with Athens. The ancient cultural expressions that allegedly represent democracy cannot actually be directly connected to the institution, nor did Athenians in the fifth-century say that they would be remembered because of their democracy. When we remove presentist ideas and accept what the sources explicitly say, it becomes clear that rather than their political system, the Athenians believed that it was their autochthony, military power, and empire that led to their successes and defined the identity of Athenians.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

PRESENTATION.pptx (7759 kB)

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Empire, Autochthony, and Identity in Fifth-Century Athens

The fifth-century BCE is a period of Athenian history that is bookended by conflict. It began with the Persian Wars, which established Athens as a major power and gave them claim to their empire. The period ended with the Peloponnesian War, which resulted in the defeat of Athens and the end of their imperial reign. The fifth-century was a period of unprecedented cultural, political, and ideological development, and is one of the most important periods in all of Greek history. Despite the various developments that occurred in the fifth-century, most of the scholarship on fifth-century Athens is concerned with the Athenian political system, demokratia. It is hard to find work on Athens that does not insinuate that the cultural flourishing and development in the fifth-century was inherently a result or expression of democracy. However, when Athenians portrayed themselves in the abstract, democracy was not commonly evoked. Instead, it was their autochthony (ethnic purity), military power, and empire that both the Athenians and others most readily associated with Athens. The ancient cultural expressions that allegedly represent democracy cannot actually be directly connected to the institution, nor did Athenians in the fifth-century say that they would be remembered because of their democracy. When we remove presentist ideas and accept what the sources explicitly say, it becomes clear that rather than their political system, the Athenians believed that it was their autochthony, military power, and empire that led to their successes and defined the identity of Athenians.