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ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

Classical archaeologists are familiar with boundaries, because in Greco Roman society they are itemized in historical sources and inscriptions, as well as visible through stone boundary markers. I examine evidence for formal territoriality (emphasizing restricted access to parts of the landscape) in earlier and later periods of ancient Greece to determine how far back in time political territoriality (the exercise of power over the landscape) began and to examine how it changed following the Classical era. [prehistoric Greece, ancient Greece, territory, boundaries]

As the other chapters in this volume emphasize, territory and boundary behavior in past human societies are quite variable phenomena and are never a given facet of human social behavior. Moreover, geographical control can be replaced by control over people or even culture. In this chapter I will identify similar variability in the long-term development of human communities in the Aegean region and seek to isolate key factors in accounting for such differences (Figure 2.1 is a map of Greece and the Aegean Sea showing regions discussed in this chapter).

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Figure 2.1. A map of Greece to illustrate the location of Thessaly, the southern Mainland, Crete, and the Aegean Islands (from Bintliff 2012:plate 1, with permission).

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Classical archaeologists are very familiar with boundaries, because in Greco Roman society they are itemized in written texts. These boundaries range from the local scale of the limits of family estates to the regional scale of interstate frontier markers. There is also plentiful evidence for disputes at all of these levels over rights of ownership and access, demonstrating active defense of territory. Mostly this evidence derives from the introverted, bellicose Classical city-states of Greece, where awareness of land boundaries reflects overpopulation and competitive, endogamous, corporate communities (for relevant theory on factors controlling human territoriality see the classic paper of Dyson-Hudson and Smith 1978; for Classical Greek states and territoriality see Bintliff 1994, 1999).

In the preceding Greek Early Iron Age, or the more remote agricultural prehistory of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, is there similar evidence for formal territoriality? This contribution will review the possible evolution of attitudes to landscape ownership from the first prehistoric farmers in Greece up to the region's occupants within the Roman Empire. Although Dyson-Hudson and Smith (1978) revealed with exceptional clarity that open or restricted access to parts of the landscape can be modeled on a global scale, through the operation of key variables such as population density and localized resource availability and its reliability, in this chapter I shall concentrate on forms of social organization and class formation (the theoretical background has been presented in detail in Bintliff 1999).

The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

During the long early farming eras of the Aegean, the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, there is very rare evidence for the existence of state or even regional dominance by particular settlements or ceremonial centers, although such central places do exist in limited areas and numbers (Bintliff 2012:chapters 3–4). More importantly perhaps, very few communities appear to have surpassed the face-to-face population level of 150–200 inhabitants (Figure 2.2, Phase A), argued by social and biological anthropologists to be a limiting range for sustainable societies bonded by nonhierarchical personal relations (Bintliff 1999, 2000). This small community size promoted social integration but at the same time necessitated systematic exogamy with several neighboring settlements or districts so as to reach a sustainable demographic population bank, if we accept the widely used proposals of Wobst (e.g., Wobst 1974) on a range of 500–600 or more for a long-term healthy human breeding population (discussed further in Bintliff 1999). Even where long-lived and continuous clusters of villages arose, such as in the plains of Thessaly (Thessalia in Figure 2.1) in North-Central Greece (see Figure 2.3), continual intermarriage between individuals in settlements two to three kilometers distant would, I would argue, have dissolved any tendency toward exclusive control of land or other property (Perlès 1999).

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Figure 2.2. A model of the transformation from a face-to-face society to one that is a corporate community of a proto-urban, proto city-state form (from Bintliff 2000).

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Figure 2.3. The dense network of Early Neolithic tell villages in Thessaly, Northern Greece (from Perlès 1999, with permission).

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In areas of lower settlement density, for example the Southern Mainland of Greece, short-lived dispersed farms and hamlets appear as satellites to rarer villages, but very few of the latter reach demographic self-sufficiency, and the majority of settlements remain small and dependent on each other. The lower density pattern is by far the most common throughout early farming Europe over the same millennia (ca. 7500–2000 B.C.E.), as is the associated emphasis on dispersed small settlements that often had limited lifespans, indicating horizontal movement of families around the landscape every few generations (Whittle 1996).

In both models, rights over land and stock, based on ethnoarchaeological parallels to such settlement systems, would have been flowing between settlements continuously, and although land was being used intensively in the rarer pockets of dense and stable village networks, it seems likely that the land was not associated with a sense of village integrity or familial exclusiveness. The distinctive web of small settlements was created as a reaction to defuse social tension, not to wall off discrete communities and their possessions.

The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

In the Middle Bronze Age throughout the Aegean it seems likely that the lack of long-term control of land I assume to have been characteristic of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age begins to change (Bintliff 2012:chapters 5–6; Dickinson 1994). Burials are more commonly differentiated, reflecting the emergence of families of higher status on the Greek Mainland (see Figure 2.4), whose wealth is most likely to have focused on agricultural and pastoral resources, and the form of such graves allows for generations of secondary burials, thus emphasizing a sense of dynastic ties. Settlements focus more clearly on regular networks of longer-lived villages, though still only a few of these reach demographic self-sufficiency. On the great island of Crete (at the base of the map, Figure 2.1) and the other Aegean islands (directly north of Crete), nucleated planned towns and large ceremonial centers develop on a more systematic basis than previously, and these more regularly grow to the size of self-sustaining communities (that is, urban foci well over four to five hectares—indeed several are 20 hectares or more) (Bintliff 2002, 2012:chapter 5).

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Figure 2.4. Princely warrior burials from the shaft graves at Mycenae, transitional Late Middle to Early Late Bronze Age. a) Phase 2: combination of jewelry and weapons (Grave A-II); b) Phase 3: combination of jewelry and weapons (Grave B, burial e)(from Kilian-Dirlmeier 1986, with permission).

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I suspect that the greater stress on family status and on class that emerged in the Middle Bronze Age would have been connected to a concern to tie wealth to distinct clan lines, which in agropastoral terms would imply the development of private property and greater attention to marriage arrangements in order to amalgamate such resources. The increasing number of settlements that were sizable enough to be self-sufficient in population may well have developed traits characteristic of ethnographically observed corporate communities, such as the internalization of social, political, and economic life and group decision-making (Figure 2.2, Phase B; Freeman 1968). Communal intervention in the ownership and management of land, stock, and other wealth items goes hand in hand in such proto city-state settlements with marked boundary control toward neighboring communities. Likewise, belonging to such corporate communities entails rights and privileges, but this belonging must be earned by establishing the legitimacy of one's claims through a share in the territory and its exploitation.

The largest of these nucleations, such as the towns and palaces of Middle Bronze Age (Minoan) Crete and subsequently those in the Late Bronze Age of Mycenaean (southern) Mainland Greece, would have required large regional surpluses to support their growth, while the relevant calculations allow us to estimate their minimum sphere of economic catchment (Figure 2.5; the evidence for this table is presented in Bintliff 2002). Archives with indications of land control only exist in limited form for Mycenaean palace societies (Bintliff 2012:chapter 7), but according to recent analysis provide evidence of firstly a strong private economy, secondly a significant role for local communities, and thirdly a close control of other resources by the rulers of the palace-state and their officials (Galaty and Parkinson 2007).

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Figure 2.5. Calculations of the likely population, and sustaining territory required, of urban centers in the Mediterranean Bronze and Iron Ages (from Bintliff 2002).

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One can imagine how such a mixed economy arose over the timescale of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages in Greece through a balance between the rise of dynastic family wealth and competition for resources, the formation of corporate communities of a proto city-state form in many places, and the increasing dominance of certain centers and their leading families. I suspect that these linked transformations in the later Bronze Age caused the general creation of boundaries between states, between discrete towns and villages, and between the land claimed by families or the representatives of the state, as seems indicated by fortification systems and the palatial archive records of the Mycenaean states. Land divisions in other areas of Europe also seem to become more common and larger in scale from this time onward, associated with signs of class formation, intercommunal conflict, and centers of regional control (Harding 2000). Only in the Aegean, however, are state formation, a state economy, and a partial state distribution of land and stock evidenced.

The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

Following the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in Greece, the subsequent Iron Age witnesses a universal decline in population and land use intensity (Bintliff 2012:chapter 9; Dickinson 2006). Class divisions do not disappear, however, but simplify into a lower serf class and a broad upper class of lords and independent middling farmers. Land is plentiful, so control over labor now dominates the social structure: the toil of the serfs supports those above them, with their subservience marked by their exclusion from formal burial areas (Morris 1987). The upper class sport weaponry at all times, their means of class control (Figure 2.6; van Wees 1998). Although there are rare town-like settlements in which demographic self-sufficiency was possible, their plans suggest dispersed clusters of chiefs and their followers (Morris 1991). Both here and in the normal small rural settlements, therefore, a corporate sense of community control over resources was probably lacking. However, as in the Bronze Age of Europe more generally, elite families strove to amalgamate resources through intermarriage within and without their settlement (reflected in the largely contemporary social situation in Homeric epics and in the earliest historical sources from the end of this period). In such reconstructed circumstances, I do not consider that an emphasis on territorial boundaries at either the community or the family level would have been emphasized.

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Figure 2.6. Elite of the Greek Early Iron Age as painted on Late Geometric vase scenes (from van Wees 1998, with permission).

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Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

The rise of historical Greece in early Archaic times (700–600 B.C.E.) (Bintliff 2012:chapters 9–10) is most marked in the southern Mainland and the islands by the emergence of the city-state, of which many hundreds are documented (Figure 2.7). In essence they are small, on average just a few thousand people, with territories whose average radius has been calculated from historical and geographical analyses to require only an hour to an hour and a half travel time (Bintliff 2007). This curious miniaturism is explained through their emergence out of competing villages into Village-States or Dorfstaaten (Kirsten 1956).

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Figure 2.7. Reconstruction of one of the earliest city-state centers in the Aegean, Old Smyrna on the coast of western Turkey (after Snodgrass 1980, with permission).

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This is not an unusual process but occurs in many societies in the absence of a strong interventionist territorial state and under circumstances of rapid population growth (Bintliff 1999). Having achieved demographic sufficiency so as to allow virtual endogamy, such city-states become introverted and begin to create communal structures to control their now-bounded resources, both human and organic (see Figure 2.1, Phase B; for historic and anthropological examples see Freeman 1968 and Davies 1988). Belonging as a citizen to such Greek city-states was intimately connected to land ownership and proof thereof, while these closed societies confronted each other aggressively to expand their territories and manpower (Bintliff 1994; cf. Dyson-Hudson and Smith 1978). Hence formal boundaries for state and citizen were matters of central importance, and the formal demarcation of spaces in general is seen as a major aspect of Greek state formation (Figure 2.8; Bintliff 2012:chapter 11; Hölkeskamp 2004). Inscribed boundaries and disputes over such are a constant feature of these small but competitive city-states at both communal and personal levels.

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Figure 2.8. Rural farm complexes in the agricultural hinterland of Classical Athens, with traces preserved of estate boundaries (dot-and-dash lines) (from Lohmann 1993, with permission).

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Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

In Hellenistic and Roman Imperial times, great kingdoms and empires arose from within the Greek world and then from Italy, respectively, but they all have the same long-term effect of eroding the importance of the city-state and its exclusive social and economic life. The wealthy can now own property in many city landscapes and their political boundaries lose their former exclusiveness (Alcock 1993). Growing economic disparities encourage the gradual polarization between a class of mobile merchants, manufacturers, and large estate owners, and a far larger class of immobile poor farmers and workers, often employed rather than independent (Bintliff 2012:chapters 13–14). Landscapes are typified by the estates of the wealthy in place of the dominance of family farms in earlier centuries (Figure 2.9).

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Figure 2.9. In Roman Imperial times, much of the Greek landscape became dominated by the rural estates of wealthier landowners. In the hinterland of the city of Thespiae, survey has recorded villas (V), villa-hamlets (V/H), and hamlets (H). LA = Low activity of a nonpermanent nature. It is suggested that most of the farming population, including those in the town itself, worked on the villas (from Bintliff et al. 2007).

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Population decline in large parts of formerly flourishing Southern Greece is coupled with rapid land intake in hitherto undeveloped regions of the Aegean (Bintliff 1997). The large scale of such imperial states allows the populations and economies of numerous small landscapes to stagnate or even become abandoned, as long as the areas of growth in other regions compensate in income. However, both trends tend to favor those with mobile capital and commercial production for wider markets, as opposed to the traditional citizen class of the earlier city-states with their largely internalized production and consumption regime.

If this is an early form of globalization and capitalism, as some now argue (Paterson 1998; cf. Harvey 1989 for a contemporary Post-Fordist parallel), it is certainly correct that the impact of intervention by great powers in this long era destroys the political, social, and economic boundaries of the cities. Particularly in the depopulated provinces, labor was the critical resource again rather than land, and commercial estate expansion was fed by slaves but even more by salaried labor from impoverished villages and towns in their neighborhood.

City-state boundaries were no longer relevant in such conditions of capital and labor mobility, nor is it likely that landscape divisions were vital in underused countrysides. Once more the ruling class found ways to control scarce labor, this time not through force and custom, but through control of cash and commerce in a proto-capitalist and globalizing economy whose free flows were facilitated by the vast size of contemporary imperial states. Much richness and power indeed came to local ruling classes by their association with the ruling cadres of the interregional states that had taken over essential powers from the earlier city-states.

Eventually, as the authority of the Roman state begins to wane in Late Antiquity (from the third century C.E. onward) (Bintliff 2012:chapters 15–16) and Barbarian raids cause increasing insecurity, the dependent, if free, peasantry, whose labor supports the landed and commercial elite, choose to accept increasingly serf-like status under the protection of local wealthy families and military leaders. This submission paves the way for a revival of the tied peasantry of the Iron Age some one thousand years earlier (Haldon 1990). Boundaries of the estates of the rich, and those of the military authority of local state officials, are likely to remain the only marks of spatial control.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

During the Greek Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age, population levels were low and settlements small, requiring exogamy and intercommunity cooperation, so that rights over land are unlikely to have been significant. But during the course of the later Bronze Age, nucleation of settlement and the appearance of central place settlement hierarchies appear to be associated with concepts of communal and elite control over defined blocs of landscape. Fortifications mark foci of power as well as protect frontiers between small polities.

With the collapse of Bronze Age states and of population during the subsequent Early Iron Age, most settlements reverted to a small size requiring cooperative exogamy, while a largely empty landscape removed the need for boundary maintenance. Elites were sustained by controlling people not land, and hence the threat of violence and a strong emphasis on class appear, in order to limit human mobility and people escaping local dependency into areas of the landscape free from chieftain control.

During Classical Greek times, high population levels stimulated an unprecedented degree of territorial defense and boundary aggression, as the many hundreds of city-states and confederacies of towns competed for resources. These were typical corporate communities whose political introversion impelled them into associating an essentially closed citizenship with ownership of land within the tightly exclusive territory of the city. In natural association, private land rights are accentuated and our sources exhibit constant litigation over their boundaries.

A very different attitude to territoriality appears in Greece during the Hellenistic dynastic states and the subsequent Roman Empire. The unparalleled scale of the private economy and the abolition of the innumerable older frontiers between rural and urban communities and between city and territorial states led to the accumulation of land and other natural resources such as mines, forests, and fisheries in the hands of the state, the imperial family, and a populous class of magnates. A form of early globalization occurred, in which the efficient exchange of surpluses around the empire meant that individual regions could prosper or decline according to local or interregional initiatives or their absence, without the system as a whole suffering a weakness. Human mobility increased accordingly, following growth nodes and abandoning areas of stagnation or impoverishment.

This contribution has taken its cue from the volume editors’ introduction (Chapter 1 herein) by exploring the dialectic that occurred in the long term of the Greek landscape between geography, social organization, and economics. As a result of the sometimes historically contingent effect of the interaction between these variables, I have been led to describe a remarkable dynamism in the scale or even existence of territorial behavior at different levels of analysis from families through communities to imperial provinces.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Aegean Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 7000 B.C.E. to 2200/1900 B.C.E.)
  4. The Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 2200/1900 B.C.E. to 1200/1100 B.C.E.)
  5. The Early Greek Iron Age (ca. 1200/1100 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E.)
  6. Archaic Greece (ca. 700 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.)
  7. Greece under the Hellenistic Dynastic States and the Roman Empire (323 B.C.E. to ca. C.E. 600)
  8. Conclusion
  9. References
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