The role of the 'strategoi' in Athens in the 4th century B.C.

The role of the ‘strategoi’ in Athens in the 4th century B.C.

By Scott Peake

PhD Dissertation, University of St Andrews, 1991

Abstract: The role of the Athenian generals in the Fourth Century B.C. has remained one viewed in simplistic dismissal as mercenaries and lawless condottieri. Such ideas, based upon the political rhetoric of the Athenian ecclesia, led historians to remove the generals to the periphery of Athenian history in the Fourth Century. Though misguided, there has been neither a basic reinterpretation nor an in-depth re-examination of this idea.

This thesis examines the role of the Athenian strategoi from several different angles but with one central argument, that the specialist Athenian generals demonstrated throughout the 4th century a remarkably strong sense of loyalty and patriotism towards their polis. Through such an argument the generals may be brought back from the cloudy edges of legality and action they have been seen as occupying, and given a central role in the affairs of Athens in the Fourth Century.

This role will be reinforced on the military front by an examination of the Athenian command network and the evolution of warfare. I hope to show that the developments in the art of war that were occurring in this period merely exacerbated the sociopolitical tensions that were present in Athens and offered the generals further opportunity for the development of their office. By concentrating upon the relatively few specialist strategoi that emerged in the Fourth Century I hope to demonstrate that this development of the strategia was one of gradual evolution, continuing from Conon at the dawn of the century till the emergence of Leosthenes as virtually a popular dictator by the time of the Lamian War.

Loyalty to “state” did not bring direct political power to the specialist strategoi. Through the influence of public support, reliant upon a continued distancing from the squabblings of the rhetors, the strategoi might not have dominated Athenian political life but by 323 they were certainly in a position to threaten the complete sovereignty of the ecclesia itself.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of St Andrews

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