The City as Memory

John Ma

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

The City as Memory

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Classical Reception



This article shows how the work of physical construction of a city involved the creation of a history, an ideal past for the polis, which is owned by each individual citizen as much as the corporation. Its history is the citizen's ancestry. Since the citizen might be memorialized in inscription or statue, he might in his turn aspire to a kind of immortality as part of his city's historical identity. Within cities, the construction of memory may have been the means or the prize in power struggles or personal agendas. The story of Athens may bear rethinking in terms of competing political personalities. This should act as an invitation to consider that ‘collective memory’, like other products of the Greek city, may have to be read against the grain.

Keywords: city construction; polis; immortality; historical identity; Athens; collective memory

Article.  5084 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Classical Reception

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