Art, Art History and Design, School of
Euergetism and Gift-Giving at Eleusis: A Case Study of Ancient Patronage Structures
Document Type Article
A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professor Michael C. Hoff. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2011
Copyright 2011 Bailey E. Barnard
The giving and interchange of gifts, otherwise known as reciprocity or gift-giving, was a pervasive principle and practice in ancient Greek society, manifested in nearly all aspects of life. In particular, reciprocity was at the heart of patronage systems influencing religious gift-giving and civic works. This study focuses on one such system of patronage known as euergetism, in which wealthy individuals voluntarily donated funds for public facilities as munificent gifts to the city public. The traditional belief is that euergetism, emerging in the early Hellenistic period, was a sudden departure from previous patronage traditions, born out of economic necessity when Greek democracy failed. However, based on similarities in the functions and formulae of euergetism and preexisting patronage structures, it seems that euergetism was derived from earlier practices of civic and religious gift-giving, wherein its gifts functioned as a means of communication, legitimization, and mediation between benefactors and cities.
In addition to examining the practice of euergetism itself and its antecedents, this study focuses on the ways in which gift-exchange systems were manifested in the architecture, votives, and civic dedications within the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis. The surviving architectural and dedicatory remains at Eleusis, when understood within the context of euergetism and its correlatives, illustrate how relationships between benefactors and recipients were instigated, commemorated, reciprocated, justified, and mediated through the objects of religious and civic gift-giving. Ultimately, euergetism, like other gifting systems, proves to be an integral social system in Hellenistic through Roman Imperial Greece.
Adviser: Michael C. Hoff