Bribery in Classical Athens (PhD diss. Princeton) by Kellam Conover

By Kellam Conover

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There it will be shown that the medium of bribery, the bribe, is emblematic of a host of different ways in which the Athenians leveraged social relationships in the practice of politics. In the third and last section, we will consider how the normative value of the bribe often shifts depending on whether one adopts the frame of an insider—someone part of the bribe relationship—or an outsider. In turn, public discourse on what did and did not constitute bribery was, itself, composed of numerous, competing accusations of bribery.

119K)—but its meaning was also not clearly defined as a “bribe” given or received. g. Dem. 29, 31. 29 It would be entirely unexpected for the same word—whether dōron or lēmma—to connote, on its own, dramatically opposite meanings within a language, particularly given the social and political significance of a concept like bribery. After all, having the same word denote both ‘gift’ and ‘bribe’ would create a tremendous amount of confusion; we would expect, instead, that the two would always be distinguished, if not with different words—just as our word ‘bribe’ is always a marked term distinct from ‘gift’—then by some other linguistic means.

Given that bribery is thought of as a kind of quid pro quo, we can readily classify it as a transaction of compensation (direct exchange). More specifically, I propose, something is ‘bribery’ if and only if there is an exchange, a violation of an obligation inhering in a social relationship, and a causal link between the two such that the violation is thought to occur because of the exchange. e. 10 Note how extending the frame in this way to encompass the perspective of a thirdparty creates the potential for a crucial conflict between social frames.

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