Autochthony and the Athenians

Classical Quarterly 37 (02):294- (1987)
Athenians of the fifth and fourth centuries claimed with pride that their ancestors had always lived in Attica, a claim which they expressed by describing themselves as Related to this Athenian belief that they had always lived in Attica was a second, that, as a people, they were literally ‘sprung from the earth’. It is generally assumed that both beliefs developed at a very early date, but this is merely an assumption, and in the course of this paper we will see evidence suggesting, to the contrary, that both ideas were relatively late developments. This paper focuses on the development of the concept of autochthony, as far as our sources allow, in an effort to understand better what autochthony meant to the Athenians. In particular it considers how the Athenians came to think of themselves as ‘born from the earth’. It then suggests how, through the medium of the word the idea of being ‘born from the earth’ came to symbolize ‘living in a place from time immemorial’. Finally it examines how the concept of autochthony was used in contexts which relate it to the ideology of Athenian democracy
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800030512
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