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Androtion and the "Atthis."

By Phillip Harding. Don Mills, Ontario, Clarendon Press (Oxford University Press), 1994. xi, 236 pp. $64.50.

Few contemporary scholars have been willing and able to pursue the pioneering work of U. von Wilamowitz and F. Jacoby on the writings of the Atthidographers. Harding is a notable exception. The Atthidographers were a series of historians who chronicled the local history of Athens. They generally named their worksatthis, thus their collective name, but other titles were sometimes used. Beginning with Hellanikos (c. 480-395 BC), proceeding among others to Androtion (c. 410-c. 340 BC), and culminating with the famous and popular work of Philochoros (c. 340-c. 260 BC), they gave an annalistic account of events in Athenian history. Like the Amglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Atthis was written in a monotonous style. Androtion's is no exception. Although each writer of an Atthis differed somewhat from the others in specific interests and topics, they all discussed Athenian religion and cults as well as political history. As a genre, the Atthis was uniformly patriotic and democratic in tone. Some Atthidographers were more interested in preserving and explaining the mythical and legendary past than in contemporary affairs. Others, most notably Andotion and Philochoros, wrote extensively on the political, diplomatic, and military events of their lifetimes. Moreover, many of the Atthidographers were public figures, active in the political or religious life of Athens. Thus, their testimony about Athenian history, religion, and culture is unique and well informed.

Before this background can be set Harding's study of Androtion, one of the most esteemed of the Atthidographers. Androtion was a prominent public figure who held high office as the commander of an Athenian garrison on the island of Amorgos, president of the Assembly, and member of the Council. Although Androtion has often been labelled a "moderate conservative," Harding succeeds admirably to demonstrate that he did not use his Atthis to publish the views of a frustrated conservative. Rather, he rightly concludes that Androtion was a democrat of realistic and pragmatic political bent. Harding's discussion of Athenian politics in the fourth century is refreshing in that it denies and helps to disprove the notion of political parties in classical Athens, as they would be understood in modern parliamentary terms. Harding's interpretation that in the mind of Androtion there were no such concepts as "democrats, oligarchs and moderates, organized along party-political lines, each with its own identifiable idealogy" (p. 16), ably supports W.R. Connor (The New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens, 1971), who had earlier proposed the same idea. Athenian politics in the classical period was a kaleidoscope of political associations.

Androtion was reputedly a pupil of the Athenian rhetorician Isokrates. Harding takes this occasion to continue the controversy concerning Isokrates's political influence in fourth-century Athenian life. The topic is of far greater significance than the life and work of one historian whose works survive only in fragments. Those who have advocated the view that Isokrates used his school as a podium of propaganda designed to influence contemporary politics have never yet proven their case. Seldom in anything that Isokrates wrote is there much that is sensible and practical. Harding also points out that the supposed audience of such political propaganda had already left active politics. Harding is surely right to say that if Androtion learned anything from Isokrates, it was merely rhetoric.

In his Atthis Androtion treated such earlier matters as cult and religion F(ragment) 1-2 and various political and legal institutions (FF 3, 4, 6, 9, and so on). Harding's study demonstrates that Androtion, like other Atthidographers, reshaped oral traditions of the past to fit current political developments. In essence, they were rewriting their own history. A case in point is F4 (pp. 88-89) concerning the history of the Areopagos, the revered and ancient court of Athens. Harding concludes that this body must have existed before the reforms of Solon. It surely evolved over time, as did other Athenian institutions. The fact that it later consisted of fifty-one members suggests that it was reorganized either by Kleisthenes or Ephialtes. In his discussion of ostracism (pp. 94-98) Harding takes refuge in the notion that Androtion derived his information about those ostracized from an otherwise unknown list of them. This argument from silence need not be taken seriously.

Other historically noteworthy fragments include F22 and 27, which shed welcome light on how Androtion at times relied upon his own experience in composing his Atthis, much in the manner of Thucydides, Xenophon, and Polybios in their histories. F30 is valuable for two reasons important to classical scholars. First, because of its length, it is the best evidence of Androtion's literary style. Secondly, it can be compared in content to the contemporary evidence of Athenian epigraphy (IG [II.sup.2] 204). Thus, historians have an authentic document that can be used to check the accuracy of Androtion's text. Both sources are in general agreement. Limitations of space admit discussion of only two other significant fragments. Harding takes advantage of F38 in which Androtion lists the names of the generals at Samos in 441/0 BC to discuss the Athenian magistracy of the strategia (generalship) and its irregularities, which is valuable for its frank admission that we simply cannot explain various anomalies in the lists of various boards of generals. In politics he likewise uses F41 successfully to refute D. Kagan's out-moded views of Athenian "political parties."

A few quibbles nonetheless remain. Harding makes no attempt to improve Jacoby's text of Androtion. More important is Harding's mistaken assertion that the Hellenika Oxyrhrynchia is the work of Kratippos (pp. 38, 113), an historian known from only three fragments. In two of those fragments, the sentences containing the name of Kratippos are usually bracketed, indicating that they are not authentic. We simply do not know who the author was. Although Harding lists numerous titles in his bibliography, few find their way into his commentary. Not to end on a dour note, Harding is to be congratulated on his elucidation of Androtion's relation to Aristotles Athenaion Politeia, which is quite convincing. In sum, Harding has used what could be seen as a small topic to apply it to a number of important questions.
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Author:Buckler, John
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1994
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