Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World

36 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017 Last revised: 30 Mar 2018

See all articles by Josiah Ober

Josiah Ober

Stanford University - Department of Classics

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 23, 2017

Abstract

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

Keywords: Democracy, Ancient Greece, Athens, Walls and Democracy, Taxation, War

JEL Classification: H11, H41, N43, O43, P51, P14, P16

Suggested Citation

Ober, Josiah and Weingast, Barry R., Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World (October 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3057639 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3057639

Josiah Ober

Stanford University - Department of Classics ( email )

Building 110
Stanford, CA 94305-2080
United States
650-724-0868 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

Barry R. Weingast (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.stanford.edu/group/mcnollgast/cgi-bin/wordpress/

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
742
Abstract Views
5,778
rank
32,958
PlumX Metrics