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When the Greek leader Agamemnon took for himself the woman awarded to Achilles as his spoils of battle, the warrior’s resulting anger and outrage nearly cost his side the war. Beyond the woman herself was what she symbolised — a matter of esteem rather than material value. In Archaic Greece the practices of gift giving existed alongside an economy of market relations. The value of gifts and the meanings of exchange in ancient societies are fundamental to the debates of 19th-century economists, to Marcel Mauss’s famous Essai sur le don (1923-4), and to the definition of experiential value by modern philosopher Yanis Varoufakis.

In this book Beate Wagner-Hasel analyses the sensory content and the social context of many examples of Greeks bearing gifts: to guests, at sacrificial rituals and at funerals, to brides and to heroes. The fabric of these gifts unfolds a panorama of social networks and models of rulership embedded in a world of pastoral and textile economy. Among the gifted objects that represent this world, textiles offer the clearest representation of social cohesion — the key value ascribed to the gift by the earliest theorists of gift-giving.

Beate Wagner-Hasel was Professor of Ancient History at the Leibniz University of Hannover 2001–2018, specializing in economic history and gender studies. She is the author of Antike Welten (2017), Alter in der Antike (2012), Die Arbeit des Gelehrten (2011), and Der Stoff der Gaben (2000), and co-editor (with Marie-Louise Nosch) of Gaben, Waren und Tribute (2019).

The Fabrics of Gifts is a revised edition of her study of gifts in Early Greece (Der Stoff der Gaben, 2000).



Publication Date



Zea Books


Lincoln, Nebraska


gifts, archaic Greece, Iliad, Odyssey, textiles


Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Classical Literature and Philology | Classics | Fiber, Textile, and Weaving Arts | Museum Studies


Copyright © 2020 Beate Wagner-Hasel

The Fabric of Gifts: Culture and Politics of Giving and Exchange in Archaic Greece