WORKING PAPERS BY DATE - 2010

NOVEMBER
111001 Identity Theft: Masquerades and Impersonations in the Contemporary Books of Cassius Dio
Maud W. Gleason, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - The contemporary books of Cassius Dio’s Roman History are known (to the extent that they are read) for their anecdotal quality and lack of interpretive sophistication. This paper aims to recuperate another layer of meaning for Dio’s anecdotes by examining episodes in his contemporary books that feature masquerades and impersonation. It suggests that these themes owe their prominence to political conditions in Dio’s lifetime, particularly the revival, after a hundred-year lapse, of usurpation and damnatio memoriae, practices that rendered personal identity problematic. The central claim is that narratives in Dio’s last books use masquerades and impersonation to explore paradoxes of personal identity and signification, issues made salient by abrupt changes of social position at the highest levels of imperial society.
This paper replaces (110901) originally published in November 2009. It has now been published in Classical Antiquity 30 (2011), pp. 33-86.

SEPTEMBEER
091008 The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University
Revised May 2011. See 051101 entry.

091007 Approaching the Roman economy
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper introduces current approaches to the study of the Roman economy. It discusses ways of measuring Roman economic performance, the uses of historical comparison, and competing models of economic behavior, and stresses the importance of ecological factors. It concludes with an appendix summarizing evidence for climatic conditions in the Roman period.

091006 Human development and quality of life in the long run: the case of Greece
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - The Human development Index of the United Nations and other broadly based indices of wellbeing seek to identify and measure a wide range of determinants of the quality of life. Income, longevity, and education are regarded as key indicators. Auxiliary variables include nutrition, income and gender inequality, political and human rights, crime rates, human rights, and environmental degradation. Although some of the factors cannot be properly assessed with respect to the more distant past, indices such as these nevertheless provide a useful template for the historical cross-cultural and comparative study of human development and quality of life. This paper illustrates the potential of this approach by exploring the changing configuration of significant variables in the long run, using the Greek world from antiquity to the recent past as a test case. This exercise is meant to provide context for the study of the quality of life as envisioned by our panel.

091005 Roman real wages in context
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper presents and discusses evidence of real incomes in the Roman period. It shows that real wages rose in response to demographic contractions. There is no evidence that would support the assumption that Roman economic growth raised real wages for workers. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: relevant data are scarce and highly unevenly distributed in time and space.

091004 The Xiongnu and the comparative study of empire
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper discusses state formation among the Xiongnu from a comparative perspective, arguing that it is legitimate to refer to their polity as an ‘empire.’ It also explores the applicability of a new theory that seeks to explain large-scale imperiogenesis with reference to structural tensions between steppe nomads and agriculturalists.

091003 Slavery in the Roman economy
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper discusses the location of slavery in the Roman economy. It deals with the size and distribution of the slave population and the economics of slave labor and offers a chronological sketch of the development of Roman slavery.

091002 Coin quality, coin quantity, and coin value in early China and the Roman world
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - In ancient China, early bronze ‘tool money’ came to be replaced by round bronze coins that were supplemented by uncoined gold and silver bullion, whereas in the Greco-Roman world, precious-metal coins dominated from the beginnings of coinage. Chinese currency is often interpreted in ‘nominalist’ terms, and although a ‘metallist’ perspective used be common among students of Greco-Roman coinage, putatively fiduciary elements of the Roman currency system are now receiving growing attention. I argue that both the intrinsic properties of coins and the volume of the money supply were the principal determinants of coin value and that fiduciary aspects must not be overrated. These principles apply regardless of whether precious-metal or base-metal currencies were dominant.
This paper replaces (090902) originally published in January 2010.

091001 Physical wellbeing in the Roman world
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper presents and discusses evidence of physical wellbeing in the Roman period. It covers life expectancy, mortality patterns, and skeletal evidence such as body height, cranial lesions, and dental defects. These data reveal both commonalities and significant regional variation within the Roman Empire.
This paper replaces (011002) originally published in January 2010.

AUGUST
081001 Review of T. V. Evans and D. D. Obbink (eds.), The Language of the Papyri
Joshua Katz, Princeton University
Download PDF Abstract - This is a review, commissioned by and written for Bryn Mawr Classical Review, of an excellent collection of papers on the language — really, languages — found in Greek and Latin papyri and related sources from the third century B.C. to the seventh/eighth century A.D. Many of the contributions deserve a wider readership than I expect they will receive.

JULY
071001 The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract: Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus, Justin, and other ancient historians report that rumors of poisoning arose after the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BC. Alexander’s close friends suspected a legendary poison gathered from the River Styx in Arcadia, so corrosive that only the hoof of a horse could contain it. It’s impossible to know the real cause of Alexander’s death, but a recent toxicological discovery may help explain why some ancient observers believed that Alexander was murdered with Styx poison. We propose that the river harbored a killer bacterium that can occur on limestone rock deposits. This paper elaborates on our Poster presentation, Toxicological History Room, XII International Congress of Toxicology, Barcelona, 19-23 July 2010, and Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting, Washington DC, March 2011.

JUNE
061001 Sweating Truth in Ancient Carthage
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract: Richard Miles’s Carthage Must Be Destroyed (2010) justifies a new look at Gustave Flaubert’s controversial novel Salammbô (1862). An abridged version of this essay appeared as “Pacesetter,” London Review of Books 32 (June 2010): 30-31.

MAY
051002 CHAPTER 1 of The City-State Commensurate: Plato and Pythagorean Political Philosophy: “Aristotle’s Description of Mathematical Pythagoreanism in the 4th Century BCE”
Philip Sidney Horky, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract: Scholars of the history of ancient philosophy have been hesitant to attribute particular characteristics to those Pythagoreans called “mathematical” by Aristotle. Aristotle himself,to be sure, not only felt it important to distinguish this type of Pythagorean from the more traditional “acousmatic” type, but he also invested in this distinction the basic tenets of his own philosophical methodology regarding the pursuit of knowledge from first principles. In this chapter, I describe the philosophical system (pragmateia) of the mathematical Pythagoreans by analyzing and comparing the accounts of Pythagoreanism in both the surviving treatises of Aristotle (especially Metaphysics) and the fragmentary works on the Pythagoreans preserved in Iamblichus’ On the General Mathematical Science and On the Pythagorean Way of Life. This is the newest version of the first chapter of a book-length study in which I describe the philosophical and political history of the mathematical Pythagoreans and their influence on Plato’s later thought.

051001 Wealthy Hellas
Josiah Ober, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - When it is compared to other premodern societies, ihe Greek world, in 800-300 BC, was prosperous. The Greek economy grew (both in the aggregate and per capita) at a hight rate by premodern standards (although growth was feeble by modern standards). By the fourth century BC Hellas was comparatively densely populated and highly urbanized. Incomes of working people were high (at least in Athens) and wealth and income were distributed relatively equitably. Comparatively strong Greek economic performance is the context for the development archaic/classical Greek culture. Exceptional Greek economic performance may be explained in part by “rule egalitariansim” (leading to greater investment in human capital and lower transaction costs) and by continuous institutional innovation (the result of inter-state competition and learning).

FEBRUARY
021003 Age and health in Roman Egypt
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - Prepared for a forthcoming handbook of Roman Egypt, this paper surveys ancient and comparative evidence and modern interpretations of life expectancy, mortality patterns, and disease in ancient Egypt.

021002 'Epideixis' versus elenchus: The epirrhematic agon and the politics of Aristophanes’ 'Frogs'
Foivos Karachalios, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - This paper proposes a particular interpretation of the epirrhematic agon between Euripides and Aeschylus in Aristophanes’ Frogs, namely that Euripides’ epirrheme constitutes a rhetorical display (epideixis), whereas Aeschylus’ involves a question-and-answer approach with elements that resemble the Socratic elenchus. This interpretation is then employed toward a broader understanding of the politics of this play, including the final judgment of Dionysus. I argue that Euripides is consistently depicted as a disruptive force in the life of the community in both cultural and political terms, so that his eventual rejection signifies concern for communal cohesion in a time of crisis for Athens.

021001 The instrumental value of others and institutional change: An Athenian case study
Josiah Ober, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - A primary motive for certain Athenian rule changes in the direction of increased legal access and impartiality in the fourth century B.C. was Athenian awareness of the increased instrumental value of foreigners. New Athenian rules were aimed at persuading foreigners to do business in Athens. Foreigners gained greater access to some Athenian institutions, and fairness, in the sense of impartiality, was more evident in some forms of legal decision-making. These new rules appear to have worked; Athens became more prosperous by the later fourth century, at least in part because foreigners liked the new rules and so did more business there. Because increased access and impartiality were not prompted by a changed Athenian approach to the ends/means distinction, a Kantian deontologist would deny that the new rules made Athens a better place. A consequentialist might disagree. Written for a Leiden/Penn collection of essays on “Valuing Others,” in progress, edited by R. Rosen and I. Sluiter.

JANUARY
011003 Greco-Roman sex ratios and femicide in comparative perspective
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - Is it possible to demonstrate that ancient Greeks or Romans disposed of newborn daughters in ways that skewed sex ratios in favor of males? Epigraphic, papyrological, and archaeological evidence fails to provide reliable empirical support for this notion. At the same time, we cannot rule out the possibility that femicide did in fact occur. Drawing on comparative anthropological and historical evidence, this paper briefly develops two models of femicidal practice.

011002 Physical wellbeing in the Roman world
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Revised September 2010. See entry 091001.

011001 Roman wellbeing and the economic consequences of the ‘Antonine Plague’
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University (with a contribution by John Sutherland)
Download PDF Abstract - This paper responds to recent scholarship by Willem Jongman and Geoffrey Kron that has tried to make a case for elevated levels of prosperity and physical wellbeing in the first two centuries of the Roman imperial monarchy. The relevance of various putative indicators is critiqued. Demographic data as well as anthropometric evidence consistently point to high levels of morbidity and mortality and substantial developmental stress. This evidence is incompatible with an optimistic interpretation of living conditions in that period. The second part of the paper revisits previous arguments concerning the impact of the so-called ‘Antonine Plague’ of the late second century CE. Papyrological data from Roman Egypt indicate a shift in the ratio of land to labor that is logically consistent with a significant demographic contraction. At the same time, comparative evidence from other periods suggests that the scale of this contraction must not be overrated.
This paper replaces (090903) originally published in September 2009.