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The Ancient Civil Community and Its Political, Socio-economic, Religious, and Mythological Dimensions

The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

This line of research is highly relevant because it allows us to consider in a comprehensive manner the ancient civil community, specifically, issues concerning the ancient civil community’s crises and deformations. This is a subject area that can be viewed as new (or very understudied).

The understanding of the ancient civil community, which existed in two forms―the Greek polis and the Roman civitas, as a form of small self-organized and self-governed human collectives usually related to a particular city served as the methodological basis of our research. In the process of evolution, the Roman civitas became the political, religious, and cultural center, giving rise to the traditional understanding of the ancient civil community as a city-state.

The ancient civil community (ie in Greece) was preceded by some other forms of political and socio-economic organizations that did not vest their subjects with civil rights. On the one hand, these forms may include late-primitive communities evolving into proto-civic groups in which only a small part of the population was vested with civic rights (ie monarchies and aristocratic regimes). On the other hand, ancient civic communities arose over the ruins of preceding political formations (or civilizations), eg the palace civilizations of Crete and Mycenae.

The same historical path proceeded Roman civil community. But, as to its early stages, it is extremely difficult for us to separate authentic historical kernels from mythology or later inventions.

The Greek polis originating as an aristocratic political system acquired democratic features at the end of the VI Century B.C.  Therefore, the VI Century B.C. is frequently referred to as an era of reforms (or legislative reforms). This period witnessed not only the transition from customary to written law but also the laying of the political groundwork for a community of citizens (the reforms of Solon and Cleisthenes).

Eventually, the Greek polis (ie Athenian) became a world power (arche), with Athens turning into the leader of the Maritime League, unifying dozens of large and small poleis. In foreign historiography, Athenian Sea League is frequently referred to as the Empire. 

The Roman civitas went through almost identical stages in its development. It evolved from a closed political community of the VIII-VI Cent. B.C. into a republican form of government (res publica). The latter became the Empire after the long and bloody civil wars of the II-I Century B.C. The Empire lasted for several centuries and then began to crumble as a result of internal instability and external pressure―the barbarian onslaught in the Early Medieval period.

Main Results

The main results of the laboratory’s research are as follows:

Research staff participated in several international meetings of scholars (eg XVIII Sergeevskie Chtenia, Moscow, February 2013; XV Zhebelevskie Chtenia, St. Petersburg, October-November 2013);

Research staff prepared a series of scholarly reports and articles, the themes of which reflect both the collective and personal scholarly interests of the research group;

Some scholarly articles were recommended for an international expert review.

Research staff organized the Summer School on Antiquity (August 24-27, 2012) the theme of which was “Political Regimes of Antiquity–2: Political Structures–Social Groups–Individuals”. Some prominent researchers from Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Tobolsk, etc) and abroad (UK) presented lectures and led master classes.

The regional scientific conference, The (De)mythologizing of Ancient History: From Antiquity to the Present, was held in May 2013. It was attended by members of the Group for Historical Research (GHR), the Department of Humanities (NRU HSE Perm), and young scholars from Perm.

Valery Goushchin and Denis Bubnov, GHR members, established a study group for amateur research into antiquity, which in early 2013 evolved into a student research laboratory. From October to December 2013, several meetings on various topics were arranged, with 10 reports made by the students and five best papers prepared for Symposium Alumni, student research proceedings to be published in 2014. It is important to note that our students played an active role in preparations for the 2013 Summer School.


To sum up, in the reporting year, the group focused on two main areas of activity: research (participation in scholarly conferences, preparation of the scientific articles and the collective monograph, and the organization of the summer school) and educational work (supervision of the student research laboratory, the organization of the student conference and round tables, etc). In addition, the group members were actively engaged in the activities of the HSE Department of Humanities, which is headed by A. Borisov.

Thus, our group members extended their field of activity in 2013. We focused on a research area not covered before, specifically, the ancient civic community in its religious, social, political, and economic dimensions. It is noteworthy that in 2013, we began preparing for Ancient Civil Community: Deformations and Crises, an international conference to be held in September 2014.


Гущин В. Р. Репетиция «большой войны». Афины и Спарта в период Первой (Малой) Пелопоннесской войны (460-446 гг. до н.э.) // В кн.: Спартанское общество и государство: от архаики до эллинизма. СПб. : Филологический факультет Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета, 2014.
Гущин В. Р. Талассократия, империя и демократия в Афинах // Мнемон: Исследования и публикации по истории античного мира. 2013. № 13. С. 13-32.
Бубнов Д. В. Лакедемонянин Дексипп и проблема источников "Исторической библиотеки" Диодора Сицилийского (XIII, 85-96) // В кн.: Lanterna nostra. Сборник в честь 90-летия профессора И.Л. Маяк. СПб. : Алетейя, 2014. Гл. 0,66. С. 112-122.
Олимпийские игры в политике и культуре. М. : Издательство РУДН, 2013.
Бубнов Д. В. Олимпийское посольство Дионисия Старшего и проблема происхождения данных Диодора (XIV, 109 и XV, 7) // В кн.: Олимпийские игры в политике и культуре. М. : Издательство РУДН, 2013. С. 46-64.