Book Review: Athens, Thrace, and the Shaping of Athenian Leadership


by Matthew A. Sears

Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xvi, 328. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $95.00. ISBN: 1107030536

The Thracian Role in Athenian Politics and Power

Prof.  Sears (Wabash) examines the curious influence that Thrace had on Athens, unmatched by any other region in the greater Greek world.  Although Thrace was widely regarded as “barbarian” territory, Sears demonstrates that an unusually large number of notable Athenians had ties to Thrace; such as Pisistratus, Miltiades, Alcibiades, Thucydides, Xenophon, Cimon, and Iphicrates, among others.  He attributes these ties to several factors.  Albeit “barbarous” Thrace had a vibrant culture and a thriving commerce.  The region was rich in resources, both human and natural, notably naval stores, essential for Athenian maritime supremacy. 

Thrace was a place where a wealthy man could grow richer, and several notable Athenian families had investments in the region.  Foreign soldiers could find work there as mercenaries in local conflicts.  It was a place that offered refuge and opportunity to Athenian exiles, some of whom even found wealth, glory, and a territorial base, as did Alcibiades.  And access to Thrace could provide exile or political faction with access to the abundant manpower of the region. 

This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in Athens or in cross cultural influences in the ancient world.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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