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Written lists of military personnel in classical Athens

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Chapter Summary

Athens’ use of written lists in connection with its military personnel needs to be situated with regard to two of its most salient features: democracy and empire. These military lists resulted from the decentralized, non-uniform practices of private individuals serving as generals. The generals in classical Athens maintained at least four types of lists of military personnel: those eligible for service; those called up; those serving; and those who died. They did so individually and idiosyncratically, prompted by a desire to protect themselves against an antagonistic dêmos bent on holding them to account. The cumulative effect, while originally unintended, was a substantial enhancement of Athens’ military capabilities. Perhaps even more important than the Athenian resources themselves were the habits of mind which led to their tabulation. Taken together, both factors gave Athens a considerable advantage when push came to shove.

Keywords: antagonistic dêmos; classical Athens; military personnel; Peloponnesian war; Persian war; written lists

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