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    Xenophon’s Poroi: risk, rationality and enterprise in fourth-century Attica

    Powell, Janet (2015) Xenophon’s Poroi: risk, rationality and enterprise in fourth-century Attica. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis is a reassessment of Xenophon’s strategies in the Poroi in the light of recent scholarly studies of the Athenian mining industry, trade, honours and the scholarly debate around the ancient capacity for economically rational decision-making. It argues that Xenophon wrote for a wider audience than the Athenian citizenry alone, and that an interpretation of the Poroi as proposing a beneficent regime in which slaves would live semi-autonomous lives cannot be sustained. Primarily it focuses on three specific strands. Using archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence, it argues that judgements of Xenophon’s proposals as naïve underestimate the extent to which the heavy supply demands of the Laurion region reached into the lives of many Athenians from the elite to the artisan, and will have informed their reception of his plans with a financial literacy that obviated the need for detail. Using modern analyses of economic risk it explores the extent to which Xenophon acknowledged economic, physical and socially-constructed risks, demonstrating that despite their lack of detailed record-keeping, far from being unsophisticated in their judgement of the economic security of their commercial undertakings, Athenians had a developed recognition of risk and employed a variety of expedients to mitigate it. Finally, Xenophon’s proposals to use honours to encourage commercial activity are discussed in the light of scholarly judgements that such awards would be subversive, or reflected mid-century decline. A detailed analysis of honours offered both before and after Xenophon wrote shows that his proposals exploited a robust institution that had always adapted to reflect changing circumstances and that he set careful boundaries both to the number and the social background of potential recipients. In an early work of political economy which attempted to manipulate individual commercial activity in order to manage inter-state relationships, Xenophon’s ideas were innovative but sat within the Athenian democratic tradition.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2015 09:45
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 12:30


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