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Localism and the Ancient Greek City-State

Much like our own time, the ancient Greek world was constantly expanding and becoming more connected to global networks. The landscape was shaped by an ecology of city-states, local formations that were stitched into the wider Mediterranean world. While the local is often seen as less significant than the global stage of politics, religion, and culture, localism, argues historian Hans Beck has had a pervasive influence on communal experience in a world of fast-paced change. Far from existing as outliers, citizens in these communities were deeply concerned with maintaining local identity, commercial freedom, distinct religious cults, and much more. Beyond these cultural identifiers, there lay a deeper concept of the local that guided polis societies in their contact with a rapidly expanding world.

Drawing on a staggering range of materials­­—including texts by both known and obscure writers, numismatics, pottery analysis, and archeological records—Beck develops fine-grained case studies that illustrate the significance of the local experience. Localism and the Ancient Greek City-State builds bridges across disciplines and ideas within the humanities and shows how looking back at the history of Greek localism is important not only in the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean, but also in today’s conversations about globalism, networks, and migration.

304 pages | 17 halftones, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Ancient Studies


History: Ancient and Classical History, Environmental History


"Localism and the Ancient Greek City-State is that rare, genuinely original book. . . . . Highly recommended"


"There is much to praise in this book. The investigation, written in a vivid and pleasant style, is clear and erudite, with many welcome references to fragmentary historians. It will be a stimulating read not only for specialists, but also for students or for scholars interested in the topic without being familiar with Ancient Greece."


"By incorporating some of the key turns in the field of ancient history over the last thirty years—spatial, temporal, global, and local, as well as the move towards network based explanations—Beck has produced an important history that reads quite differently from the narrative familiar to many. He emphasizes the local not merely as a category of analysis but as a source of conflicting, resistant, alternative modes of discourse that added immeasurably to the richness of archaic and classical culture.”

Jeremy McInerney, author of Ancient Greece: A New History

"In creating a compelling case for the importance of the local, Beck provides a much-needed corrective to a scholarly orthodoxy that has underestimated the importance of place. Throughout, Beck displays a dazzling virtuosity with regard to his command of the scholarship and his ability to mesh literary sources—many of them drawn from relatively obscure and fragmentary authors—with numismatics, visual imagery, pottery styles, landscape archaeology, and archaeological field survey. It will certainly add a fresh new voice to the ongoing debate about connectivity."

Jonathan Hall, author of Artifact and Artifice: Classical Archaeology and the Ancient Historian

"This is a very stimulating book, which makes a very valuable case that deserves to be read widely and with attention."

Orbis Terrarum

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Chapter One: Localism and the Local in Ancient Greece
Chapter Two: Attachment to the Land
Chapter Three: Senses and Sensation
Chapter Four: The Gods in Place
Chapter Five: Big Politics, through the Local Lens
Chapter Six: Toward a Local History of Ancient Greece

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