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Twisted Euergetism

The aim of this project is to investigate throughout the history of the Greek East from the Classical polis to the Roman Empire, the “other side” of euergetic activities. While euergetism has attracted significant attention in scholarship, starting from the now-classic work of Paul Veyne (1976), much less attention has been dedicated to the discursive presentation of euergetic practices by political opponents or opponents of euergetic acts in general. In this case, the “gift” implicit in the euergetic mechanism is interpreted either as an exchange, and thus as a form of bribery, or as a form of moral corruption of the civic body. Agis IV of Sparta, for example, was accused of giving gifts to the population to establish the tyrannis (Plut., Ag. 7). This rhetorical strategy was deployed throughout the centuries to attack euergetic activities considered excessive, interested, or simply wrong; in particular those of one’s opponents. This applies to a wide set of initiatives which can be considered “euergetic” in a broader sense, including proposals of debt cancellation, or the introduction of payments for attending the tribunals and later the assembly, presented as a “corruption of the demos” (Arist., Ath. Pol. 27.2-4). The subproject will investigate this specific form of deployment of the concept of corruption as “twisted gift”.