The words 'aristocrats', 'aristocracy' and
'aristocratic values' appear in many a study of ancient history
and culture. Sometimes these terms are used with a precise meaning.
More often they are casual shorthand for 'upper class', 'ruling
elite' and 'high standards'. This book brings together 12 new studies
by an impressive international cast of specialists. It demonstrates
not only that true aristocracies were rare in the ancient world,
but also that the modern use of 'aristocracy' in a looser sense
is misleading. The word comes with connotations derived from medieval
and modern history. Antiquity, it is here argued, was different.
Aristocracy in Antiquity explores and challenges the common assumption
that hereditary 'aristocrats' who derive much of their status,
privilege and power from their ancestors are identifiable at most
times and places in the ancient world. They question, too, the
related notion that deep ideological divisions existed between
'aristocratic values', such as hospitality, generosity and a disdain
for commerce or trade, and the norms and ideals of lower or 'middling'
They do so by detailed analysis of archaeological and literary
evidence for the rise and nature of elites and leisure classes,
diverse elite strategies, and political conflicts in a variety
of states across the Mediterranean. Chapters deal with archaic
and classical Athens, Samos, Aigina and Crete; the Greek 'colonial'
settlements such as Sicily; archaic Rome and central Italy; and
the Roman Empire under the Principate.