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    A civic alternative to Stoicism: the ethics of Hellenistic honorary decrees

    Gray, Benjamin (2018) A civic alternative to Stoicism: the ethics of Hellenistic honorary decrees. Classical Antiquity 37 (2), pp. 187-235. ISSN ‎0278-6656.

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    This article is a case study of the ways in which the public inscriptions of Greek poleis can serve as strong and revealing evidence for Greek ethical thinking and ideas, including wider Greek debates about questions of central importance for Greek ethical philosophers. The article examines, and seeks to explain, the ethical rhetoric and ideas contained in honorary decrees passed by Hellenistic poleis for leading home citizens, one of the principal forms of public expression used by Hellenistic poleis. It compares that rhetoric and those ideas with the ethical language and doctrines of different ancient philosophical schools. Whereas some scholars have identified ethical views comparable to Stoic ideas in Hellenistic decrees, this article argues that there are more significant overlaps with mainstream fourth-century ethical philosophy, especially Aristotle’s, and its Hellenistic continuators. As an institution, the honorary decree for a home citizen embodied principles central to Aristotle’s thought. Moreover, in some of the particularly rhetorical long honorary decrees which emerged in the period after c. 150 BC, drafters articulated traditional ideals about virtue and the polis in newly elaborate ways, using distinctive language and ideas similar to those of Plato and especially Aristotle and the Peripatetics. The article also seeks to explain this ethical outlook of decrees, in terms of political, social and intellectual history. Relevant honorific rhetoric can be interpreted as a product of bargaining between leading citizen benefactors and their fellow citizens, but also of collaborative development of a vision of just, sustainable civic order. Decree-drafters had a wide intellectual and cultural range on which to draw in developing their rhetoric, probably including high philosophy. The combined evidence of Hellenistic philosophy and epigraphy shows that, in the same way as the Greek polis continued to flourish after Chaironeia, critical reflection about the ethical foundations of civic life also remained vibrant, especially among Peripatetic philosophers and active citizens of poleis. All ancient dates are BC, unless otherwise stated.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Accepted for publication in Classical Antiquity. "© 2018 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center."
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
    Depositing User: Benjamin Gray
    Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2018 08:50
    Last Modified: 17 Jun 2021 15:16


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