History, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1996


Published in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.02.11. Copyright © 1996 Vanessa B. Gorman. Used by permission. Online @ http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1996/96.02.11.html


The Other Greeks, is a challenge to the typical scholarly approach to the rise and fall of the Greek polis. Hanson's central thesis is that the agrarian culture of Greece from the seventh to the fourth century BC is completely responsible for the political, economic, and social systems of that era. In particular, economic development and social stability resulted from the Greek recognition of the importance of the private ownership of land, the need to address the inequalities that arose from agrarianism, and the need to construct rules limiting the cost and destruction of war (pp. 399-401). At first glance his topic seems simple and obvious: of course, successful agriculture and the advance beyond subsistence farming was a necessary factor in the development of the Greek city-state. But the extent of the relationship between agrarianism and the polis is usually greatly understated or passed over. Hanson sketches this affiliation in great detail, filling in the agricultural background that most scholars lack. The resulting portrait of Greek life is unquestionably provocative: agrarianism (as Hanson consistently calls it) must be seen as one of the important roots of the institutions of the Greek polis.

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