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stasis


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(lit. ‘standing’),

a Greek word commonly used for a group of men who take a stand in a political dispute, i.e. a party or faction, and by extension for the dispute itself, esp. when the prosecution of the dispute goes beyond normal political activity to plotting and violence. The grounds for political dispute were various, in the Greek world as in the modern, but from the 5th cent. bc onwards there was a tendency for disputants to represent themselves, and for the sources to represent them, as champions of the rich or the poor, or of the oligarchs or the democrats, or of one outside power or another. Herodotus writes of the rise of Pisistratus in 6th‐cent. Athens in terms of three staseis with regional bases; later sources retain the regional bases for the staseis but give them ideological stances also. Despite the value placed on independence in Greek states, political leaders would often prefer to be on the winning side with the support of one of the greater states to being on the losing side in an independent state, and the leading states were glad to extend their influence in this way. Thus disputes which had a local origin often acquired an inter‐state dimension; but in the 5th and 4th cents. Sparta and Athens were able to give the states under their influence a measure of enforced stability by keeping their own supporters in power. The violence and the outside involvement to which stasis could lead had a damaging effect on the states: the worsening of this as attitudes were polarized in the Peloponnesian War is analysed in Thucydides 3. 82–84.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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