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Review: Siewert’s Trittyes

Konrad H. Kinzl (Trent University)


Gymnasium 93 (1986) 556-58





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P. Siewert: Die Trittyen Attikas und die Heeresreform des Kleisthenes. München (Beck) 1982. Vestigia: 33. XVIII, 183 S. 4 Kart. DM 82.—.


W. E. Thompson discovered that in 4th and 3rd century bouleutic inscriptions names are arranged in neat “thirds” (17 + 17 + 16 = 50) and identified them as the TRITTU/ES TW=N PRUTA/NEWN of Athenaiôn politeia (AP) 44,1; J.S. Traill dropped a





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hint that they might “in fact reflect the original organization, both political and military, of Kleisthenes” (Hesperia 47,1978,109). Siewert incontrovertibly proves him right. Kleisthenology ought never to be same again. It will of course continue as a playground of those who prefer to live in wonderland, the romanticisers, and those who, for want of ideas of their own, attempt to imitate the profundity of past giants (such as Ehrenberg or Schachermeyr).

The books falls into five parts. In a substantial “Einleitung” (1-35) Siewert takes account of the state of research. Four “Untersuchungsbereiche” predominate: elucidating Kleisthenes’ political aims by examining the literary tradition; “Trittyenforschung” (the material consists chiefly of the horoi and the bouleutic inscriptions); “Demenforschung” (with emphasis on “Trittyenblöcke”, “Enklaven”, and “Sektorenordnung der Asty-Region”); and “Verkehrswege”. The “Untersuchung” proper proceeds through four chapters. I (37-86), how the demoi and trittyes are situated along the course of major routes into Athens. II (87-138), how geography and the arithmetic of bouleutic representation are factors determining the shape and composition of the trittyes. III (139-153), what the “Tirttyenordnung” means in military terms. IV (154-170), the historical backdrop. A good bibliography precedes the main text (XIII-XVIII; I find only one error: Saint Dow). The Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik, well for its generous support of scholars and fairly lavishly produced volumes, seems to have been uncharacteristically parsimonious in this instance (perhaps because, at the time, the author was only a little Assistent?): Siewert’s study would have deserved a rich apparatus of plates and maps (there are only four maps: Map 1 from J.S. Traill, Political organization of Attica, 1975; two other maps illustrating traffic arteries; Siewert’s revised and expanded version of Traill’s map).

Part I establishes the “Zentralwegprinzip” which Siewert finds duplicated in the hub of the whole system, where Siewert ingeniously re-invents and elegantly solves the puzzle of a “Sektorenordnung” (first observed by Sauppe in 1846) by which the asty trittyes seems purposefully arranged “in der offiziellen Reihenfolge der Phylen I-X strahlenförmig um die Stadtmitte” (28).

Part II is a model of superbly thorough scholarship which is the hallmark of Siewert’s book (originally a Saarbrücken Habilitationsschrift, 1980), especially his mastery of the Hilfswissenschaften such as epigraphy. He establishes, in my opinion beyond any doubt, that the bouleutic thirds are nothing less than Kleisthenes’ trittyes. By showing “wie sehr Enklaven die Bildung von Prytanen-Trittyen erleichterten” (120) because of the need “jede Asty-Trittys zu einem vollen Phylendrittel aufzustocken” (119) he clinches the case: only a masterfully planning mind could have devised a system of such complexity (Siewert suggests with the aid of the computer to test the probability of all this being the result of chance, 122 n.174). I would take issue with Siewert, however, over his praise of this as a “Meisterleistung” which is a throw-back to romanticism. It is far more economical to acknowledge that Kleisthenes got himself into a muddle and somehow left it at that.

Pages 130f., a massive glossary, and Map 4, are in their unsurpassable complexity proof of what Siewert is unable or unwilling (perhaps he knew that tradition-minded classical philologues on “Berufungskommissionen” receiving his applications would have made sure he got nowhere) to admit from his researches: the neat maps which grace every textbook and specialist study with their three “Kleisthenic” regions belong in the dustbin. AP’s asty, paralia and mesogeios as categories for creating regional trittyes and supra-regional phylai have no





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claim to an existence in reality, except in the mind of whoever made up the content of AP 21,4. If it had been possible to associate AP with the name of Aristotle because of well- attested fragments, if the first major monograph on its historical significance had been written by a historian instead of the “Philologenpabst” (U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Aristotles und Athen, 2 vols., 381 + 428 pp., Berlin 1893, repr. Berlin, Dublin, Zürich 1966), there is a good chance that our concept of Athens might be much f[u]rther advanced (see, for an attempt, E. Ruschenbusch, Athenische Innenpolitik etc., Bamberg 1979, esp. 10; cf. my review AAHG 39,1986,190-91).

Siewert convinces less as a historian. He very astutely observes that “Kleisthenes’ Reformen sind, wie wohl jede Reform, primär Maßnahmen zur Bewältigung einer akuten Krise” (170). In Siewert’s judgement, this immediate crisis was the War on Three Fronts and the measure to master it was therefore military in nature. Yet the massive military threat did not occur until several years after the expulsion of the tyrants, and indeed after the Kleisthenic reforms had been initiated and were well under way. What the Athenian citizen army needed was not so much a new structure for itself but a new command structure. This could have been aided by the more than doubling of the number of phylai, and the reduction of the size of the phylai as military units and the sub-unites (the lochoi of c. 300 from each trittys on Siewert’s thesis, 141ff.). The creation of the strategia after the crisis also points in that direction. Siewert’s “Zentralwegprinzip” which requires all trittys units to rush to Athens makes more sense in an offensive war than in a war of defence under the threat of an enemy army suddenly appearing at the borders. I find no explanation of how Siewert thinks the system was affected by the fact that a citizen’s demos affiliation, and that of his descendants, never changed, so that with the passing o time the demoi and trittyes became increasingly impure, as it were. While it would be imprudent to ignore (as I did, in: K.H. Kinzl, ed., Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean etc., 1977, 199ff.), and outright wrong to deny, the military aspects of the reforms, I would still assign precedence over military considerations to the political nature of their thrust.

[Note: cf. now my articles in AHB 1 (1987) 25-33 and Chiron 19 (1989) 347-65; and my reviews of J.S. Traill, Demos and trittys, 1986, in CR 39 (1989) 67-69, and Gymnasium 96 (1989) 560-61.]

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