Public Subscriptions and Loans as Social Capital in the Hellenistic City: Reciprocity, Performance, Commemoration

Angelos Chaniotis

in Epigraphical Approaches to the Post-classical Polis

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652143
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745935 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents

Public Subscriptions and Loans as Social Capital in the Hellenistic City: Reciprocity, Performance, Commemoration

Show Summary Details


Public subscriptions (epidoseis) played a significant part in public finances in the Hellenistic period. They have been studied primarily as a phenomenon of Greek civic finances. This chapter is dedicated to the study of the social mechanisms behind the epidoseis. Through a study of the surviving lists of contributors — in particular those related to war — and their structure, but also through a study of literary sources, it is argued that the public offering of a contribution by an individual (citizen, woman, foreign resident) during public gatherings of the population had performative aspects; the behaviour of the individual was carefully observed, discussed, criticized, or praised, and there was an interaction between contributor and audience. It is also argued that this public character of epidoseis made them into a competition among citizens, especially among members of the elite; the ‘winners’ in this competition were not those who contributed the greatest sum, but those who contributed first (protoi, en tois protois). The civic values of zelos, philodoxia, and philotimia are the social background of this attitude; emotional display was also significant. The writing down of the contributions, which were assimilated to acts of heroism, made them into a monument and an exemplum. The contribution was remembered and could be exploited as ‘social capital’ by the contributors and their descendants in order to strengthen their influence as citizens (in the case of foreigners, in order to receive privileges). A study of the prosopography of epidoseis lists reveals the predominance of elite families. The epidoseis were part of the mechanisms, which contributed to the aristocratization of Hellenistic poleis.

Keywords: aristocratization; competition; contributions; elite; emotional display; epidoseis; performance; public subscriptions; social capital

Chapter.  8968 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.