That war and alliances created the most suited context for the outburst of staseis (Thuc. III 82, 1) is best shown by the case of Corcyra: every stage of this complex event is marked by the more or less active intervention of the Greek superpowers. However, in 427 BC Corinth (and Sparta), much more than Athens, aimed at a radical change of the international relations of Corcyra. So, it was the Corcyrean pro-Corinthian faction which took the initiative of forcing Corcyreans’ realignment by political and judicial means, while the democratic group led by Peithias probably upheld no more than the preservation of the status quo. After the failure of this attempt, the same men «conspired together» (the language Thucydides makes use of in III 70 is relevant to this point) and carried out a putsch: they murdered Peithias and many of his supporters and then, even though the assembly had been compelled to declare neutrality, suddenly attacked the demos. That was the root of the bloody civil war which eventually led to the slaughter of demos’ enemies, covered or even encouraged by the Athenian generals. As for the composition of the two factions, the close scrutiny of a few Thucydidean passages (III 75, 3-5; 77, 2; 80, 1; 85, 2 etc.) shows, against the prevailing view, that the pro-Corinthian faction, led by a handful of very rich citizens, was ever made up of about 400 men, that is the 400 suppliants of the Heraion. The remainder of the 1,500 citizens killed by the demos from 427 to 425 (Diod. XIII 48, 2), inclusive of the 500 fugitives who had taken possession of the Istone mountain, were mostly other Corcyreans of the hoplite class, only potentially members of the oligoi, who probably at an early stage had not shared in stasis and later were implicated because of the increasing polarization (cf. Thuc. III 82, 8: during a stasis «citizens in the middle», that is neutral ones, were not spared the death). This discloses some interesting aspects of the phenomenon-stasis which have been acutely investigated by H.-J. Gehrke. On the other side, Peithias, labelled by Thucydides as the prostates of the demos, seems to lead a relatively small democratic faction, backed by a majority of citizens, which was almost totally annihilated by the rush action of the pro-Corinthians. But after the oligarchic attack the demos, at whose head there were still some prostatai, included many ordinary citizens living in the city of Corcyra, so that their action appears to be a true popular response to the aggression of the oligoi. As for their number, J. Wilson’s calculation of about 5,000 persons, though perhaps too high, is surely nearer to the truth than the excessively low estimate of 400-800 by E. Ruschenbusch. This large participation of the common people, a striking aspect of the Corcyrean stasis, disproves radically the thesis that the demos in stasis was never something different from a small faction, and at least partially the idea, supported by R.P. Legon, that the demos was generally a ‘third party’, unrelated to the political struggle, which rallied only for patriotic reasons. Surely the origin of the Corcyrean stasis can be traced back to political reasons, and this is consistent with the view of Thucydides (III 84 is almost certainly non-Thucydidean). However, since there was in Corcyra a very rich élite, made up of the same citizens who sponsored the oligarchic putsch, we cannot rule out the possibility that the harsh reaction of the common people was not due also to social and economic demands (perhaps the mention, in Thuc. III 81, 4, of Corcyreans killed by their debtors is more relevant than it seems at first sight). Moreover, the participation of slaves who largely took sides with the demos (III 73) is likely to have played a major role in the rage of the anti-oligarchic reaction. On the other hand, if Thucydides interprets the civil war as an aspect of the great kinesis of the Peloponnesian War, this doesn’t mean that for him social and economic reasons had no role in any stasis or that the social divide between rich and poor was not a precondition of stasis.

Corcira, 427-425 a.C: anatomia di una 'stasis' / UGO FANTASIA. - (2008), pp. 167-201.

Corcira, 427-425 a.C: anatomia di una 'stasis'

FANTASIA, Ugo
2008

Abstract

That war and alliances created the most suited context for the outburst of staseis (Thuc. III 82, 1) is best shown by the case of Corcyra: every stage of this complex event is marked by the more or less active intervention of the Greek superpowers. However, in 427 BC Corinth (and Sparta), much more than Athens, aimed at a radical change of the international relations of Corcyra. So, it was the Corcyrean pro-Corinthian faction which took the initiative of forcing Corcyreans’ realignment by political and judicial means, while the democratic group led by Peithias probably upheld no more than the preservation of the status quo. After the failure of this attempt, the same men «conspired together» (the language Thucydides makes use of in III 70 is relevant to this point) and carried out a putsch: they murdered Peithias and many of his supporters and then, even though the assembly had been compelled to declare neutrality, suddenly attacked the demos. That was the root of the bloody civil war which eventually led to the slaughter of demos’ enemies, covered or even encouraged by the Athenian generals. As for the composition of the two factions, the close scrutiny of a few Thucydidean passages (III 75, 3-5; 77, 2; 80, 1; 85, 2 etc.) shows, against the prevailing view, that the pro-Corinthian faction, led by a handful of very rich citizens, was ever made up of about 400 men, that is the 400 suppliants of the Heraion. The remainder of the 1,500 citizens killed by the demos from 427 to 425 (Diod. XIII 48, 2), inclusive of the 500 fugitives who had taken possession of the Istone mountain, were mostly other Corcyreans of the hoplite class, only potentially members of the oligoi, who probably at an early stage had not shared in stasis and later were implicated because of the increasing polarization (cf. Thuc. III 82, 8: during a stasis «citizens in the middle», that is neutral ones, were not spared the death). This discloses some interesting aspects of the phenomenon-stasis which have been acutely investigated by H.-J. Gehrke. On the other side, Peithias, labelled by Thucydides as the prostates of the demos, seems to lead a relatively small democratic faction, backed by a majority of citizens, which was almost totally annihilated by the rush action of the pro-Corinthians. But after the oligarchic attack the demos, at whose head there were still some prostatai, included many ordinary citizens living in the city of Corcyra, so that their action appears to be a true popular response to the aggression of the oligoi. As for their number, J. Wilson’s calculation of about 5,000 persons, though perhaps too high, is surely nearer to the truth than the excessively low estimate of 400-800 by E. Ruschenbusch. This large participation of the common people, a striking aspect of the Corcyrean stasis, disproves radically the thesis that the demos in stasis was never something different from a small faction, and at least partially the idea, supported by R.P. Legon, that the demos was generally a ‘third party’, unrelated to the political struggle, which rallied only for patriotic reasons. Surely the origin of the Corcyrean stasis can be traced back to political reasons, and this is consistent with the view of Thucydides (III 84 is almost certainly non-Thucydidean). However, since there was in Corcyra a very rich élite, made up of the same citizens who sponsored the oligarchic putsch, we cannot rule out the possibility that the harsh reaction of the common people was not due also to social and economic demands (perhaps the mention, in Thuc. III 81, 4, of Corcyreans killed by their debtors is more relevant than it seems at first sight). Moreover, the participation of slaves who largely took sides with the demos (III 73) is likely to have played a major role in the rage of the anti-oligarchic reaction. On the other hand, if Thucydides interprets the civil war as an aspect of the great kinesis of the Peloponnesian War, this doesn’t mean that for him social and economic reasons had no role in any stasis or that the social divide between rich and poor was not a precondition of stasis.
9788834316719
Corcira, 427-425 a.C: anatomia di una 'stasis' / UGO FANTASIA. - (2008), pp. 167-201.
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