The Ideology of Public Subscriptions

Aneurin Ellis-Evans

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

The Ideology of Public Subscriptions

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Previous studies of public subscriptions (epidoseis) have focused on the economic and social data they provide for the post-classical polis. Less attention has been paid to what these documents tell us about the ideology of the institution. Subscription lists make it seem as if subscribers were always willing, subscriptions always popular, and that the promises made were never reneged upon. This impression was achieved through careful drafting of the document's language and attention to the visual impact of the inscription and its text. This idealized image had the self-serving motive of encouraging subscribers to behave compliantly and suggest that to do otherwise was aberrant. However, the reality which we can reconstruct from the epigraphic and literary evidence suggests that exactly the kind of behaviour which this ideology most abhorred was in fact highly prevalent. A far broader spectrum of motives, many incompatible with the institution's view of itself, was at work in public subscriptions. Organizers of subscriptions were compelled to stage public subscriptions in order to make them more closely resemble the ideal, an effort the inscribed record continued by presenting an account of the event which passed off the ideal as the reality. Careful attention to the ideology of public subscriptions saves us from complicity in this process, while also helping us better understand the motives of all the parties involved.

Keywords: epidoseis; ideology; language; lists; public subscriptions

Chapter.  7318 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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