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Paulin Ismard: Public slaves, politics and expertise in classical Athens

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
5:15 – 7:00 pm
Building 110, Room 112
Join us at 5:00pm for light refreshments. 
Public slavery was an institution common to most Greek cities during the classical and hellenistic periods. In classical Athens, some 1000 to 2000 dêmosioi were employed for up to 40 000 citizens. Whether they worked on the city’s major construction sites, performed minor duties in its civic administration services or filled the ranks of its police (the famous Scythian archers), public slaves may be said to have made up the first public servants known to Greek cities. Dêmosioi were often gifted with uncommon, highly sought-after skills, such as evaluating the authenticity of current monetary emissions, or acting as the archivists of the cities in hellenistic Asia Minor. Their fields of expertise were wholly dedicated to the city and were kept out of the scope of political participation which leads us question the nature of what one might call the epistêmê of the democratic city. 
Paulin Ismard is Maître de Conférences in Ancient Greek History at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, in France. His research interests focus on the civic societies in classical and hellenistic periods. While at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, Paulin is working on public slavery in classical and hellenistic cities.