gift and commodity in archaic greece

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Gift and Commodity in Archaic Greece Author(s): Ian Morris Source: Man, New Series, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 1-17 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/05/2011 02:26Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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UniversityCambridge ofThe roles of the giftand the commodityin Greece c. 800-500 B.C. are analysedfromthe primary literary sources,and it is suggestedthatcurrent anthropological models of the interof relationships forms of production,exchange and social organisationare too simplistic. the Historicalevidencecan be used to supplement ethnographic record,and to show the great importance giftexchangecan have in stateand even imperialcivilisations. Further, great the importance the giftin ArchaicGreecewas not unusualin earlyEurope. It is arguedthatthe of archaeologist can attempt identify to spheresof exchangeand a gifteconomyin the material of recordofthedeliberate consumption wealthin prehistory.

Over thelastsixtyyears,thestudyof gift exchangehas been one of thecentral of in fields research economicanthropology. based modelsof Ethnographically giftexchange,particularly evolutionary the schemesof relatedformsof exand social organisation change,technology, production developedby Mauss, Sahlinsand most recently have had a profound Gregory, impactin therelated of In I and disciplines history archaeology. thisarticle, will arguethat historians in particular in a positionto repaysome ofthegifts are have received from they evidencefrom case studies whichmight lead to a anthropologists, providing by of the modification thesewidely used models. Historicaldata can illuminate in no and thecommodity socialformations longeravailablefor rolesof thegift or timein anthropological sociologicalstudy,and can show changesthrough of therelative positionsand importance thetwo exchangeforms. I In thisarticle, will concentrate thespecific on case ofArchaicGreece,in the eighthto sixth centuries B.C., arguingthatthe dominantethnographically derivedmodelsof thesocial correlates thegift of economyare over-simplified: in particular, theanthropologists' that is positionthat exchange a dominant gift feature 'clan' societiesalone is of dubious value. A rangeof ancient in literary evidence will be consideredwhich, I will argue, indicatesthat the relative of and commodity forms exchangedo as of positionsand importance thegift is classand state but there no reasonto suggest that the varywithin societies, that 1 can mechanism gift be a primary onlyin kinship-based, non-state societies. A number of anthropologists have argued that a closer rapportbetween and is anthropology history necessary (e.g. Godelier1977a:25-9; Lewis I968; from ancient Copans & Seddon 1978), andsomehaveevenmadeuse ofevidence Greece (Goody 1976: 71-2; Godelier 1977b). Too few ancienthistorians, fromtheirparticular fieldsto contribute to however,have triedto generalise models of widerrelevanceto anthropologists archaeologists Godelier and (cf.1977b: I s). Man(N.S.)21,1-17



modelsof gift Anthropological exchangehave been widelyemployedin the of interpretation the archaeologicalrecord of the complex societies of the European LaterBronze Age and EarlyIronAge, often roughly contemporary withtheGreekmaterial discussed here(e.g. Kromer1982; Championetal. 1984: 292-5), even thoughtheverymodelsused would excludethepossibility gift of societies.The exchange playing a major role in such complex, hierarchical is modelscanbe constructed positionadoptedin thisarticle thatmoreuseful by of of theinclusion historical of evidence, showingthepossiblerelevance theories thegift a widerrangeofsocial and economicformations. to of This framework suggeststhe significance giftexchangeforthe studyof I complex prehistoric societies,and in thefinalpartof thisarticle will discuss seekto identify presence gift the of in how thearchaeologist might exchange the of material record. Giftexchangeis itself coursean ephemeral phenomenon, archaeologically invisible,for most social contextsof prestation produce no residue.The onlycontact archaeologist hope forwiththe the can archaeological of is the of of circulation gifts through activity deliberate disposalor destruction one wealth.I will arguethatit may be possibleto identify of thecharacteristic of features thegift of economy-the existence restricted 'spheresof exchange' this -in thearchaeological record,and will illustrate withevidencefrom Early

IronAgeGreece I000-500 B.C.). (c.

and Gifts commodities Any discussionof gifts and commodities muststart withMarx. For him, the commoditywas an alienableobject exchangedbetweentwo transactors a in state of mutual independence(Marx 1976 [I867]: 178): to a large extentits exchangeuse was seen by Marx as definitional. appearance Its was treated a as consequenceof theriseof private property. This was because of his view that therewas no exchange otherthan throughthe commodity;he held thatin primitive, Asiaticand Classical modes of production commodityexisted the societiestherewas no exchangewithinthe community (1976: I82). Marx's positionon thisseemsnaivein thelightofmodern anthropological research (see Firth1975: 37; Gregory1982: 12; Bloch 1983: 63-94), but his conceptof the nevertheless forms indispensable commodity the background againstwhichto studythegift.(I969

in primarily the interstices communities of (1976:


and in primitive

canbe described one of'alternating as disequilibrium', wheretheaimis neverto havedebts'paid off',butto preserve situation personal a of indebtedness. Mauss placed societies on an economic evolutionaryscale, from total prestation to through economy commodity gift exchange (1954: 9I, n. 68), and both

actors strive maximise to outgoings Gregory (see I980;

callydependent transactors.2 aim of thegift The economyis accumulation for the de-accumulation; gifteconomy is above all a debt-economy, where the1982; 1984).

Thetheory the hasowedmost Mauss(1954 [1925]) andLevi-Strauss of gift to an inalienable [1949]): or thing person exchanged between reciprotwo Thesystem



and Gregory (1982:


havefollowed this,distinin



guishingbetweenthe clansociety,wherethe giftpredominates, the class and and the commodityare the norm. Gregory society,where privateproperty elaboratesthissimplebipolaroppositioninto a continuum related of formsof and technology, distribution exchange(1984: 17), ofwhichhe writes3is At one end of thecontinuum there themoietyor dual-clan system organisation, theother of at end theproletarian capitalist or systemof organisation. one moves fromone extreme the As to other,equalityand unity give way to inequality separation and (Gregory I982: 37).

Gregoryhas been at pains to point out thathis approachprovidesa logical and rather thana carefully constructed tested modelforthe history evolutionary prehistorian, thatmuch studywill be necessary and beforeits validity can be assumed (1984: I9). Nevertheless, potentialof Gregory'smodel for the the prehistorian immediately is obvious, and his approachhas already beenapplied in in the studyof consumption thecomplexsocietiesof theEuropeanBronze I Age (Bradley1982; 1984: 96-I06). In thenextsection, will ask how useful the in clan:class::gift: commodityformula assessingits validity thelightof the is, earliest sourcesfrom Greekworld. the literary in Greece Gift exchange Archaic of To the historian ancientGreece,Gregory'sspectrum exchangeformsis of of reminiscent the fruitless debate of the disturbingly primitivist/modernist In 1928,Johannes Hasebroekpublished book Staat Handelimalten his und 1930's. Griechenland (English translation 1933), arguingthatthe economyin ancient of Greecehad to be studiedin thecontext itslinkswiththepoliticallifeof the Greek citystate.He pointedout thatcapitalist conceptscould not be applied to directly the Greek economy; therewas no nationaleconomyin the Greek in state,and the only 'political'interest 'economic' problemswas to insurea wherethesecouldnotbe obtained flowoflife-giving steady necessities, locally. in The citizenswere important theirrole as consumers, not producers,and was dominated free industrial commercial and resident activity almosttotally by aliens(metics) slaves. and This important workunfortunately servedto renewan old controversy only domesticmode of producas to whether Greekeconomywas a 'primitive' the The primitivists, the tion,or a 'modern'mercanti


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