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  1. 1. Welcome…   Wesleyan  Live,  Spring  2011  Friendship  and  Poli9cs:  Ancient   Prac9ces  and  Modern  Habits   Session  IV,  February  22  
  2. 2. The  “Kings  of  Contest”    •  “…it  has  become  axioma8c  to  think  of  ancient  Greek   society  in  terms  of  compe88on”  (Elton  T.E.  Barker,   Entering  the  Agon)  •  “…the  Greeks  delight  in  compe88on…”(Charles  Segal,   “Spectator  and  Listener,”  The  Greeks)  •  By  the  fourth-­‐century,  “…in  Athens,  democracy,  jus8ce,   and  compe88on  complemented  each  other.”  (Joseph   Roisman,  “Rhetoric,  Manliness  and  Contest,”  A   Companion  to  Greek  Rhetoric)  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  3. 3. The  Agon  Αγων  –  an  opposi8onal  prac8ce  that  demands  a    binary   structure  (i.e.,  “us”  v  “them”,  win  or  lose,  ‘yay’  or  ‘nay’):                  from  “gathering”     “compe88on”     “contest”     “argument”     to  “assembly”  “…the  Greeks  delight  in  compe88on  because  they  structure   so  many  of  their  gatherings  as  contests…”  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  4. 4. Types  of  “DelighWul”  Contest   From  formalized  and  ritualized  athle9c  contests  (i.e.,  the  Games)  to   formal  or  incidental  poe9c  contests,  recita9on  contests,  oratorical   contests,  tragic  and  comedic  theatrical  contests,  to  local  board   games,  cock  fights,  wrestling  matches,  gymnas9c  contests,  horse-­‐ racing  contests,  and  beauty  contests…  Compe88on  is  so  fundamental  to  an  ancient  Greek  “comba8ve   approach  to  social  rela8onships”  (Nicholas  Jones,  Poli=cs  and   Society  in  Ancient  Greece)  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  5. 5. What  about  war  (polemos)?  “war  appears  to  be  a  specific  mode  of  conflict,  of  agon  –in  fact   the  most  extreme  one”  (Claudia  Barrachi,  Of  Myth,  Life,  and   War  in  Plato’s  Republic)  AND  “…the  spirit  of  Strife  that  set  city-­‐states  against  each  other  was   simply  one  aspect  of  a  much  vaster  power  at  work  in  all   human  rela8onships  and  even  in  nature  itself”  (Jean-­‐Pierre   Vernant,  Myth  and  Society  in  Ancient  Greece)  So  is  nature  agonis8c?  Is  compe88on  natural  to  human  beings?  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  6. 6. Criteria  of  Agon  A  genuine  agon  must  illustrate  four  criteria:  1)  A  worthy  field  (who  is  “worthy”  to  compete?)  2)  A  prize  (arete;  originally  exists  in  a  cycle  of   kudos-­‐kleos)  3)  Mutually  acceptable  judges  4)  An  audience  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  7. 7. Exemplary  Agon  –  The  Iliad  The  Iliad  exhibits  a  new  type  of  ruling  authority  in   Athenian  legend  (contra  Mycenean  “palace-­‐culture“).   Archaic  Greece  (circa  9th-­‐6th  centuries)  is  ruled  by   “warrior-­‐aristocrats”  (i.e.,  like  Achilles,  Odysseus,   Diomedes,  etc.)  who  manifest  a  compe88ve  ethos   supported  by  a  sense  of  equality.  They:  -­‐speak  to  and  debate  with  one  another  as  a  “group  of   equals”  (homoioi)  and  -­‐display  the  “goods”  of  baile  (i.e.,“booty”)  “in  the   middle”  of  the  group  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  8. 8. Koinon  –  A  “common  right”  in  the   model  of  “Warrior-­‐Speech”  “In  warrior  assemblies,  speech  was  a  common   right,  a  koinon  set  down  “in  the  middle.”  Each   individual  could  exercise  this  right  when  his   turn  came,  with  the  agreement  of  his  peers.   Standing  at  the  center  of  an  assembly,  an   orator  found  himself  equally  distant  from  all   his  listeners,  and  each  listener  found  himself… in  a  posi8on  of  equality  and  reciprocity  vis-­‐à-­‐ vis  the  speaker”  (Marcel  De8enne,  Masters  of   Truth,  99).  
  9. 9. The  compe88ve  ethos…  “This  egalitarian  spirit  at  the  very  heart  of  an   agonis8c  concep8on  of  social  life  is  a   dis8nguishing  feature  of  the  Greek  warrior-­‐ aristocrats,  and  it  played  a  part  in  cas8ng  the  idea   of  power  in  new  terms”  (Vernant,  p.  47).  -­‐openness  in  public  spaces  -­‐speakers  in  the  Assembly  occupy  “the  middle”  -­‐the  poli8cal  “right”  of  stasis  (civic  strife)  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  10. 10. Poli8cs  too  had  the  form  of  agon…  “an  oratorical  contest,  a  baile  of  arguments   whose  theatre  was  the  agora,  the  public   square…Those  who  contended  with  words,   who  opposed  speech  with  speech,  became  in   this  hierarchical  society  a  class  of  equals…all   rivalry,  all  eris,  presupposes  a  rela8onship  of   equality:  compe88on  can  take  place  only   among  peers”  (Vernant,  46-­‐7).  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel:  
  11. 11. Equality  and  Agon  •  Contests  determine  winners  and  losers;  are   they  (s8ll)  “equal”?  •  How  does  an  aristocra8c  value  evolve  to  a   democra8c  value?  •  Can  anyone  contend?  (i.e.,  who  is  a  “ci8zen”?)  •  The  “common  good”  is  determined  by  who   wins?  Ques8ons,  comments,  email  Mel: