Plutarch on Alcibiades' Return to Athens

in Mnemosyne
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Abstract

A passage of Plutarch's biography of Alcibiades (Alc. 33.2) invites us to explore the way Athens rewarded its benefactors in the fifth and fourth century, especially the first awards of crowns to citizens. This article challenges the widespread assumption that Alcibiades' crowning with gold when he came back to Athens from his exile is an invention by Plutarch or a previous source. First, there is evidence that the crowning was known to other ancient authors. Furthermore, if one takes into consideration not only inscriptions, but also literary sources, Plutarch's report is not an isolated piece of information. It fits well in the history of the Athenian practice of bestowing honors. It has precedents in Athens, continuity after Alcibiades, parallels in other cities, and corresponds to the behavior one would expect from the dêmos as well as from a benefactor at the end of the fifth century. When viewed in this light, Plutarch's information may help us to understand the first stages of the institution of honoring fellow citizens, which was to become so important in later times.

Mnemosyne

A Journal of Classical Studies

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