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David Pritchard (Queensland) "Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens"

This seminar calculates public spending in classical Athens. Ancient historians debate whether this famous democracy spent more on religion or war. They cannot agree how the Athenians paid for politics. These debates go back to August Böckh. This pioneer of Ancient History criticised the Athenians for spending more on festivals than the armed forces. Böckh complained that the Athenians levied unjust taxes to pay for their bloated government. Calculating public spending would settle both debates. Böckh lacked the evidence to do so. Two centuries after him such calculations are now possible. But in making them this seminar does more than settle longstanding debates. In Athenian democracy voters had full control over public spending. In voting for a bill they always knew its cost and how much they normally spent on such bills. Consequently the Athenians could spend more on what they saw as important and less on what was less important. The sums that they spent thus reflected the order of the priorities that they had set for their state. By calculating these sums this seminar confirms that it was not religion or politics but war which was the overriding priority of the Athenian people.
Sponsored by Josh Ober. There will be a reception prior to the talk, beginning at 5:00. 



Tuesday, January 13, 2015. 05:15 PM


Bldg. 110, Rm. 112


Department of Classics


(650) 723-0479


Reception at 5:00pm.
Talk begins at 5:15pm.