The Birth of the Athenian Community: From Solon to Cleisthenes, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Birth of the Athenian Community

From Solon to Cleisthenes, 1st Edition

By Sviatoslav Dmitriev


392 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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The Birth of the Athenian Community elucidates the social and political development of Athens in the sixth century, when, as a result of reforms by Solon and Cleisthenes (at the beginning and end of the sixth century, respectively), Athens turned into the most advanced and famous city, or polis, of the entire ancient Greek civilization. Undermining the current dominant approach, which seeks to explain ancient Athens in modern terms, dividing all Athenians into citizens and non-citizens, this book rationalizes the development of Athens, and other Greek poleis, as a gradually rising complexity, rather than a linear progression. The multidimensional social fabric of Athens was comprised of three major groups: the kinship community of the astoi, whose privileged status was due to their origins; the legal community of the politai, who enjoyed legal and social equality in the polis; and the political community of the demotai, or adult males with political rights. These communities only partially overlapped. Their evolving relationship determined the course of Athenian history, including Cleisthenes’ establishment of demokratia, which was originally, and for a long time, a kinship democracy, since it only belonged to qualified male astoi.


"(…) the wealth of material used is apparent, especially the extensive bibliography, the bulk of which includes relevant literature not limited to just English titles. In addition, the author offers an extensive index that works well." - Anja Pfeiffer, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Abteilung für Alte Geschichte, Universität Bonn.

"This book will instantly become indispensable to academics for its extension and modification of Greek kinship, legal, and political groups, which are illuminated with unprecedented clarity. This is a unique achievement… Summing Up: Essential. Graduate students and faculty." - CHOICE, September 2018.

"(…) a fresh insight into the early history of Athens, which provides an interesting angle for new studies on the social organisation of Archaic communities and the wider development of Greek concepts of citizenship. It encompasses an impressive range of scholarship and engages in a number of controversial scholarly debates with an original and often persuasive voice. But its main contribution lies beyond doubt in its nuanced discussion of citizenship and its impact on the political and legal rights of an individual—a subject as relevant today as it was to Aristotle." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION. More than a place: Athens in the sixth century

PART ONE. The kinship community

1. The Athenian kinsmen

    1. The astoi and the gnesioi
    2. The functioning of the kinship community

2. Solon’s organization of the kinship community

    1. The reforms and laws of Solon
    2. Solon’s reforms: a reappraisal


PART TWO. The legal community

3. Politeia and politai

1. Grants of politeia "by decree" and ethnics

2. The status of politai

4. Solon and the Athenian politeia

1. Reinterpreting Solon’s politeia

2. The legal community and (written) laws

PART THREE. The political community

5. Politeia and politics

1. The political use of politeia

2. The diapsephismos of 510 and later diapsephismoi

6. Cleisthenes and the emergence of the political community

1. Status and participation

2. Cleisthenes’s reorganization of Attica


EPILOGUE. Approximating the Athenian community


1. The "citizenship of bastards"

2. Adultery and moicheia in ancient Athens

3. The "Plataean politeia"

4. Politeia and symbola

5. The "ancestral constitution" (patrios politeia)

6. The politeia of the younger Pericles


Index of Inscriptions and Papyri

Index of Classical Authors and Texts

Index of Names and Subjects

Select Bibliography


About the Author

Sviatoslav Dmitriev (Ph.D., Harvard University, 2001) has authored City Government in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor (2005) and The Greek Slogan of Freedom and Early Roman Politics in Greece (2011), as well as articles on ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine history. His current projects focus on the Athenian orator Demades and the Byzantine erudite John Lydus, who lived a thousand years apart. He is an associate professor of history at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General