Congratulations to Dr. Andrew Alwine, whose article “Freedom and Patronage in the Athenian Democracy” just appeared (Journal of Hellenic Studies 136  1-17).
To ask a question about “patronage” is to view the issue from a top-down, broadly-conceived theoretical perspective. To understand Athenian political thought, we need to take an emic approach, to consider the perspective of the Athenian citizenry, which was concerned with present realities rather than complex, abstract models. The Athenian system’s protection of individual citizens incidentally put broad restrictions on elite patronage, but, despite these limitations, relationships of patronage persisted throughout the classical period albeit in non-threatening forms. Measures that ensured financial independence for the poor came only ad hoc and gradually. This article pursues three theses: (1) Athenians cared more about securing the freedoms of individual citizens than abolishing patronage, (2) patronage (as we would call it) existed in Athens but only in forms not threatening to civic freedoms, and (3) in Athenian thinking political freedom was prior to financial independence. This article also explores the possibility of patronage systems existing in Greek poleis outside Athens, arguing that patronage-limiting practices were typical of democratic regimes but unusual for oligarchies.