Exile, Refuge and the Greek Polis: Between Justice and Humanity

Dr Benjamin Gray (University of Edinburgh)
Event date
Event time
17:00 - 18:30
Refugee Studies Centre
3 Mansfield Road
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Seminar Room 1

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Lectures and seminars
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Disabled access?
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This paper will address the place of exiles and refugees in the Greek polis (city-state), with a focus on the later Classical and Hellenistic periods (c. 400-100 BC). It will address the different forms of protection and aid granted by Greek poleis and their citizens to Greeks displaced through war and civil strife. It will also analyse the range of arguments advanced by ancient Greeks for protecting or helping exiles and refugees, including the self-presentation of displaced Greeks themselves. For example, refugees and their hosts could present aid to displaced groups as inspired by justice, law, freedom and shared Greek identity. Alternatively, in a move which became increasingly prominent in the period considered here, they could present help to the displaced as a matter of humane sympathy or even charity. This paper will argue that the diverse range of relevant Greek practices and values both reflected and helped to shape complex and shifting ancient Greek ideas about the city, citizenship, democracy, justice, freedom, virtue and gender. Throughout its argument, the paper will draw connections and contrasts between ancient Greek and modern practices and ideology, and their underpinnings in broader ethical and political ideals. Modern practices and values concerning aid to refugees draw on, and combine, different ancient Greek approaches and traditions, as well as departing from them.