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Popular Political Participation beyond Athens: The Assemblies of the Greek Cities from Homer to Constantine

From:Fr 27-05-2022
Until:Sa 28-05-2022
Where:Ghent and Online


Thierry Oppeneer and Arjan Zuiderhoek with the support of the Roman Society Research Center(Ghent University, Free University of Brussels), the Ghent University research group Ancient History, and the OIKOS research group ‘Cities and Settlements in the Ancient World.’

Practical information

The conference will take place in a hybrid format allowing people to attend both physically and digitally via Zoom. If you are interested in attending the conference, please send an email to, specifying whether you would like to participate in person or digitally.


This conference studies the popular assemblies of the ancient Greek cities from the Archaic world until Late Antiquity (c. 650 BC–AD 350). It explores the hypothesis that these assemblies, as important participatory institutions, were an essential contributing factor to the surprising institutional success and longevity of the Greek city. Although its composition, functioning and powers could differ depending on the complexion of a city’s regime (democratic, oligarchic…), the assembly constituted an abiding feature of Greek communities for almost a thousand years. Already in the Homeric world, the assembly is portrayed as an important political institution, and with the emergence of democracy in the late Archaic, early Classical period, its importance only increased. In the democracies of the Classical and early Hellenistic periods the assembly became the focal point in Greek politics. Yet, the assembly also continued to be a political actor of great significance in cities that are conventionally regarded as not, or no longer, fully democratic, such as the late-Hellenistic and Roman-era Greek cities, and even provided non-elite citizens of nondemocratic cities with the opportunity to participate to some extent in the government of their communities. In comparison to other premodern societies the ancient Greek city was thus surprisingly politically inclusive. With recent studies pointing to the benefits of participatory institutions for the political stability and economic prosperity of states, the assembly may well be an important key to explaining the remarkable resilience of the polis as a system of government.


FRIDAY 27/5, 09:45 – 16:30 [Central European Time]

09:45 – 10:10 Welcome and introduction

Thierry Oppeneer & Arjan Zuiderhoek (Universiteit Gent): ‘Towards a longue durée perspective on the assembly’

10:10 – 11:00 Keynote paper 1

Daniela Cammack (University of California, Berkeley): ‘The origins of majoritarianism: plēthos in archaic Greece’

11:00 – 11:10: Coffee break

11:10 – 11:50

Volker Grieb (Universität Graz): ‘Dēmos – plēthos –elite. Political participation and decision making in Hellenistic times’

11:50 – 12:30

Matt Simonton (Arizona State University): ‘Non-democratic assemblies: the procedure and function of mass meetings in oligarchies’

12:30 – 13:30: Lunch break

13:30 – 14:10

Mirko Canevaro (University of Edinburgh) & Alberto Esu (University of Mannheim): ‘The Many, the Democracy, and the Mixed Constitution: Greek Popular Assemblies in Polybius’ 14:10 – 14:50

Henri Fernoux (Université Rennes): ‘L’assemblée et le gouverneur dans les cités grecques d’Asie Mineure à l’époque impériale’

14:50 – 15:00: Coffee break

15:00 – 15:40

Nikos Giannakopoulos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens): ‘The popular assembly’s significance for the civic communities of Roman Greece’

15:40 – 16:30 Keynote paper 2

Eric Robinson (Indiana University): ‘Assembly space and popular assemblies in Greek cities of the Classical period’

19:30 – 21:30 Conference dinner

SATURDAY 28/5, 09:30 – 17:00 [Central European Time]

09:30 – 10:10

James Kierstead (Victoria University of Wellington): ‘Assemblies, Mediterranean and Pacific’ 10:10 – 10:50

Jeremy LaBuff (Northern Arizona University): ‘Comparing popular participation among the ‘Greek,’ ‘indigenous,’ and ‘colonial’ poleis of Hellenistic Anatolia’

10:50 – 11:00 Coffee break

11:00 – 11:40

Anna Heller (Université de Tours): ‘Popular agency and public honours in Roman Asia Minor’ 11:40 – 12:20

Christina Kuhn (University of Oxford): ‘A crisis of political discourse? The debate about debate in the assemblies of the Roman east’

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break

13:30 – 14:10

Ariel Lewin (Università degli Studi della Basilicata): ‘Popular assemblies and political culture in the cities of the Roman near east’

14:10 – 14:50

Anne-Valérie Pont (Université Paris-Sorbonne): ‘Roman norms and popular political participation in the Greek cities (1st-4th c.)’

14:50 – 15:00 Coffee break

15:00 – 15:40

John Ma (Columbia University): ‘Assembly politics in Dio Chrysostom’s Prousabuch’ 15:40 – 16:20

Adolfo La Rocca (Sapienza Università di Roma): ‘The end of the popular assemblies’ 16:20 – 17:00 Concluding round table discussion

17:00 – 18:30 Drinks