Helots and The Masters in Laconia and Messenia: Histories, Ideologies, Structures

  Luraghi, Nino, and Susan E. Alcock, eds. 2003. Helots and Their Masters in Laconia and Messenia: Histories, Ideologies, Structures. Hellenic Studies Series 4. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_LuraghiN_AlcockS_eds.Helots_and_Their_Masters.2003.


This volume originates from a workshop held at Harvard University on March 16-17, 2001. The majority of the essays in this book were there presented for the first time, in some cases in a significantly different form from that assumed in the end. In an attempt at countering the isolationist tendencies that so often plague ancient history, the organizers invited scholars from different fields to offer a commentary on the workshop’s papers. Orlando Patterson’s observations have been transformed into the volume’s concluding essay, but the organizers would also like to express their gratitude to Michael McCormick (Harvard University) for his lively and thoughtful contribution to the event’s proceedings. The workshop was made possible by the generous financial support of the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship (University of Michigan) and of the Loeb Fund of the Department of the Classics (Harvard University). The editors are grateful to both their home institutions for this assistance. Ana Galjanic (Harvard University) has also been helpful in the preparation of the manuscript.

One of the workshop’s principal goals was to bring together scholars who manifestly possessed different views of many aspects of the history and sociology of Helotage. In the course of the workshop and thereafter, while every contributor has revised her or his positions in the light of our discussions, not surprisingly no consensus has emerged. This volume testifies to a diversity of approaches that open up new avenues of interpretation. The editors are convinced that such provocative variety constitutes an ideal starting point toward future researches. The contributors to this volume have delved deep into the intricacies of the arguments they were dealing—or sometimes struggling—with, and the result is, we think, a series of extremely engaging pieces, that will repay the patient reader.

The last word on the Helots will never be spoken, and it is in the nature of the evidence that whatever is said about them has to be tentative, temporary, indeed controversial. Since scholarly views of the history of their masters have been undergoing radical transformations over the last decades, to an important extent thanks to the work of the scholars assembled in this volume, it is indeed high time to start assembling the materials and ideas for a reassessment of the history of the Helots. Such is the ambition of the present volume.

S. E. Alcock & N. Luraghi
Ann Arbor – Cambridge
April 2013