Athenian Ostracism and its Original Purpose

A Prisoner's Dilemma

ISBN: 9780198848202
Liczba stron: 320
Rok wydania: 2022
Wydania: 1 / TRANSLACJE / Oxford University Press / tł. Lidia Ożarowska

Marek Węcowski

Associate Professor of Ancient History at the University of Warsaw and member of the Academic Board of the Polish Archaeological Institute at Athens. He studied in Warsaw and in Paris at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He was a junior fellow at Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies and a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Princeton University. His research interests include archaic Greek poetry, Greek historiography, archaic and classical Greek history, and Athenian democracy. He is the author of The Rise of the Greek Aristocratic Banquet (OUP, 2014).

Ostracism is by far the most emblematic institution of ancient Athenian democracy. This volume offers a reassessment of recently found ostraka (or potsherds, on which the names of the 'candidates' for exile were inscribed by citizens) from several Greek cities outside Athens, a thorough reconstruction of the history and of the procedure of ostracism in Athens, and a comprehensive account of the political circumstances of the introduction of the law on ostracism by Cleisthenes in 508/507 BCE. Marek Węcowski's original study focuses not only on the final stage, the day of the vote, but on the entire operation and procedure of ostracisation. Tracing the logic of the political play in Athens between the opening and final stages of ostracism, Węcowski argues that Athenian ostracism was a mechanism devised to impose compromise on the main players in Athenian political life, thereby avoiding the punishment of political elites by exile of leading politicians resulting from unpredictable votes by the citizenry. To support this hypothesis, Węcowski turns to the theory of the 'evolution of cooperation' as formulated by the American mathematician and political scientist Robert Axelrod based on the iterated prisoner's dilemma in game theory, applied as a probabilistic analogy to the dynamics of Athenian political life under democracy.