Public spending in democratic Athens

Pritchard, David M. (2017) Public spending in democratic Athens. Ancient History: Resource for Teachers, 46 50-69.

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Author Pritchard, David M.
Title Public spending in democratic Athens
Journal name Ancient History: Resource for Teachers   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1032-3686
Publication date 2017-12-31
Year available 2017
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 46
Start page 50
End page 69
Total pages 20
Place of publication North Ryde, NSW Australia
Publisher Macquarie Ancient History Association
Language eng
Abstract This article calculates the public spending of classical Athens. The major public activities of this ancient democracy were festivals, politics and wars.There is hot debate about what was spent on these three activities. Ancient historians cannot agree whether the Athenian dēmos ('people') spent more on festivals or wars. This debate goes back to the first book on Athenian public finance. In 1817 August B ckh famously criticised the Athenians for wasting money on their festivals instead of building up their armed forces. Calculating their public spending would settle this debate. B ckh lacked the evidence to do such. Two centuries after him this is no longer the case. But this article's calculations do more than settle a longstanding debate. In classical Athens the dēmos had full control over public spending. In the assembly they authorised all the public activities of their state. Assembly-goers understood the financial consequences of their decisions. They knew how much a proposal that was put before them would cost. They had a good general knowledge of what the state spent on its major activities. Consequently, they could judge whether a proposal cost the same as what was normally spent on such things.This made it possible for the Athenians to change their pattern of spending and so what they spent on one class of activities relative to other classes. Such votes allowed the dēmos to spend more on what they saw as a priority. Over time the sums that they spent on different public activities reflected the order of the priorities that they had set for their state. By calculating these sums this article demonstrates that it was not religion or politics but war that was the overriding priority of the Athenian people.
Keyword Classics
Ancient history
Ancient Greek history
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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Created: Sun, 06 May 2018, 21:04:23 EST by Dr David Pritchard on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry