|Domain||Politics, Law, Economy & the Military|
|Researcher(s)||Dr. Rolf Strootman|
The theme Anchoring innovation in polis institutions comprises four projects in the domain of Politics (listed here as a, b, c and d) which also support the strategic theme Institutions: understanding the dynamics of open societies. Between ca. 800 and 300 BCE, the Greek poleis developed into a network of small-scale but resilient and politically self-conscious political units spanning the entire ancient Mediterranean world. In a relatively short time span most poleis developed into societies based on pluralistic institutions with various degrees of access, stable legal procedures, a quite high level of shared knowledge and some redistribution of wealth among the citizen population. Polis institutions were typically embedded, embodying the coherence of social, economic, religious and political interests of the polis in various ways. In response to both external and internal pressures, institutional innovation took place continuously, but innovation itself was not considered a social good; to be acceptable, institutional change needed to be anchored in existing values and structures. The four projects examine how such processes of institutional innovation came about.
This research project examines the integration of poleis into Macedonian hegemonial empires after the Classical Age. In the Hellenistic period, Alexander the Great and his successors typically presented themselves as the protectors of civic autonomy and democracy. Especially among the Greek cities in Asia Minor, empire was legitimized by a rhetoric of liberation—liberation from the Achaemenids or from rival Macedonian rulers. To this end, an image was maintained of the former Persian Empire as a repressive and essentially un-Greek, ‘Oriental’ polity, while the Macedonian rulers themselves claimed to restore traditional nomoi and freedom and thereby initiate a new ‘golden age’ for the poleis. In fact, the rhetoric of protection and liberation (which was later appropriated by the Romans in Greece) likely was borrowed from the Persians in the first place. The project seeks to clarify how imperial rulers and their local agents employed social memory to anchor the new political realities of the early Hellenistic Age in polis institutions and ideals that went back to a distant past. A similar policy was employed by the Macedonian dynasty of the Seleukids in Babylon, where an image of a Golden Age under Nebuchadnezzar II was consciously created to suggest a return to these times of glory following the ‘liberation’ of Babylon from the Persians. The Ptolemies meanwhile branded their Seleukid rivals as the New Persians and thereby were able to present their own imperialist endeavors in the Greek world as a Pan-Hellenic policy of protection against a hereditary enemy.