Stasis (political history)

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Stasis (Ancient Greek: στάσις) is a term in Greek political history. It refers to:

  • the constant feuds between aristocrats in archaic Greece, and their struggles to attain the best in title (aristos is Greek for "the best") both in terms of prestige and property. It led to various civil wars and the establishment of Tyrannies in many cities of ancient Greece, most notably the Tyranny of Peisistratos in Athens
  • the feuding between oligarchic and democratic factions in the Greek city-states of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This is a theme of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, which features a famous description of factional fighting on the island of Corcyra[1] (modern Corfu).

The Aristeuein-ideal[edit]

According to the Iliad, the goal of all men of honour in archaic Greece was to always be the first and superior to the others.[2] This ideal was called the aristeuein- or aristeia-Ideal. In Homer's days, this ideal was mainly based on performance skills in speaking and fighting, and included wisdom, self-restraint, loyalty, and bravery (e.g., leading armies in the front row). For decades, prestige, which was a requisite for might, originated in speaking ability and military virtues. This is true for the cases of both Solon and Peisistratos by Herodotus[3] and by Aristotle in the Athenaion Politeia.[4] In addition, success at the Olympic Games, especially in the field of four-horse chariot racing, was a peaceful way to gain prestige.[5]

The resulting civil wars[edit]

Since ancient Athens before Solon did not have a fixed state order or instruments of power that belonged only to the state, the aristocrats could compete violently for office and property.[6] As a result, as methods became more and more violent, aristocrats and their oikoi (families and followers) were engaged in civil strife against each other. At the beginning of the 6th century, the situation worsened,[7] so that the aristocrats of Athens made Solon a lawmaker and arbitrator. The result was the Solonic Reforms. From then on, the term tyrannos (tyrant) became increasingly connected with violence and lawless might, a development which was fruitful only after the death of Solon's successor, the tyrannos Peisistratos.

Stasis under Peisistratos[edit]

After Solon's retirement from Athenian politics, the struggle for might continued, because the Athenian society wasn't ready for a fixed state order yet.[8] Under Peisistratos' regime, the stasis continued, but only for charges under the tyrant, thus both securing him by appeasing the other aristocrats, and accustoming them to fixed charges given by a ruler, which paved the way for the reforms of Cleisthenes. Thus, aristocrats like Callias and Cimon had to struggle for prestige by winning in Olympia or showing off their wealth, not by becoming tyrants, while Miltiades the Elder emigrated from Athens and became head of a colony.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thucydides, Peloponnesian War III 69-85
  2. ^ Iliad 6, 208.
  3. ^ 1,60
  4. ^ 2.1
  5. ^ Herodotus (5, 71 [1]) mentions this when introducing Kylon
  6. ^ Alcaeus writes about 600 BC: "Money is the man", while both Hesiod and Solon mention aristocrats ruthlessly trying to enlarge their wealth during the 7th century BC
  7. ^ Plutarch: Solon, 13, see also Athenaion Politeia: 5,1 [2]
  8. ^ Schlange-Schöningen, p. 32
  9. ^ Herodotus (6,34)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Moshe Berent: Stasis, or the Greek invention of Politics. In: History of Political Thought 19, 1998, pp. 331ff.
  • Shlomo Berger: Revolution and Society in Greek Sicily and Southern Italy. Stuttgart 1992.
  • Iain Bruce: The Corcyraean Civil War of 427 B. C. In: Phoenix 25, 1971, pp. 108ff.
  • Henning Börm: Stasis im griechischen Osten nach den Iden des März (44 bis 39 v. Chr.). In: J. Wienand et al. (eds.): Civil War in Ancient Greece and Rome. Stuttgart 2016, pp. 99ff., online.
  • Hans-Joachim Gehrke: Stasis. Untersuchungen zu den inneren Kriegen in den griechischen Staaten des 5. und 4. Jh. v. Chr. (= Vestigia 35). Munich 1985.
  • Benjamin Gray: Stasis and Stability. Oxford 2015.
  • Mogens Herman Hansen: Stasis as an essential Aspect of the Polis. In: M. H. Hansen, T. H. Nielsen (eds.): An inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. Oxford 2004, pp. 124ff.
  • Nick Fisher: Hybris, revenge and stasis in the Greek city-states. In: H. van Wees (ed.): War and Violence in Ancient Greece. London 2000, pp. 83ff.
  • Andrew Lintott: Violence, Civil Strife and Revolution in the Classical City 750–330 BC. London 1982.
  • Dirk Loenen: Stasis. Enige aspecten van de begrippen partij- en klassen strijd in Oud-Griekenland. Amsterdam 1953.
  • Nicole Loraux: The Divided City. New York 2002.
  • Jonathan J. Price: Thucydides and internal war. Cambridge 2001.
  • Eberhard Ruschenbusch: Untersuchungen zu Staat und Politik in Griechenland. Vom 7. - 4. Jh. v. Chr. Bamberg 1978.
  • G. E. M. de Ste. Croix: The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. London 1981.
  • Hans van Wees: "Stasis, Destroyer of Men": Mass, Elite, Political Violence and Security in Archaic Greece. In: C. Brélaz et al. (eds.): Sécurité Collective et Ordre Public dans les Sociétés Anciennes. Geneva 2008, pp. 1–39.
  • Ronald L. Weed: Aristotle on Stasis. A Moral Psychology of Political Conflict. Berlin 2007.
  • Aloys Winterling: Polisbegriff und Stasistheorie des Aeneas Tacticus. Zur Frage der Grenzen der griechischen Polisgesellschaften im 4. Jahrhundert v. Chr. In: Historia 40, 1991, pp. 195ff.