Islands and imperialism

Christy Constantakopoulou

in The Dance of the Islands

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199215959
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191706868 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs

Islands and imperialism

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This chapter argues that Athenian control over the Aegean transformed the very concept of insularity. Athenian attempts at justification of their control over the Aegean islands resulted in projections of such control onto the mythical past. The lists of thalassocratic powers, which we know from Diodorus' lost seventh book, originated in the 5th century. Such lists show that control of islands became an essential element for any power that had claims to thalassocracy in the past. Imperial control also generated a series of other images that became synonymous with insularity. Islands were portrayed as ‘weak’ and therefore prone to control, ‘poor’ (especially Seriphos), ‘dangerous’, or ‘safe’. These images generated contempt for islands, which is evident in 5th-century sources, and more particularly, tragedy. The understanding of insularity as a well-defined place also resulted in islands being ‘netted’ or used as exile by an outside power.

Keywords: thalassocracy; poverty; weakness; Seriphos; contempt; dangerous; safe; exile

Chapter.  19689 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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