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By Paul Veyne

Translated by way of Brian Pearce

The phenomenon, often called "euergetism", is without doubt one of the so much extraordinary good points of the traditional international. it may be visible as a sort of altruism, civic delight or wealth redistribution, a way of shopping for honour, status or political energy, but something is apparent: it used to be lengthy considered as an obligation and privilege of the rich to learn their fellow electorate. to appreciate why, indicates Professor Veyne, we have to ignore summary theories and glossy economics. really, we should always research what fairly occurred earlier than the Christian period in Hellenistic Greece and the Rome of the Republic and the Emperors.

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Extra info for Bread and circuses: historical sociology and political pluralism

Sample text

Such is the principle; in detail, matters are less logical, and some burdens are endowed with a traditional prestige much higher than the moderate expenses they demand. Finally, among the dignitaries there prevails a rivalry that is expressed in striving to outdo each other, to surpass one another in bounty: 'vanity is indeed the weak point in the Indian character'. Pressure of public opinion and vanity: these two phenom­ ena, corresponding like an outside and an inside, would seem to account for Andean euergetism.

Its success was very uneven. We must distinguish carefully between the ethic that a society practises (whether it does this consciously or whether this ethic is merely implicit in people's behaviour) and the ethic that this society professes. These two ethics usually have little in common. Different social groups may practise the same morality in the name of opposing faiths: Julian the Apostate differed from the Christians only in his principles. The professed morality is never discredited, because it is not translated into deeds.

One cannot talk vaguely of an entire people as though they were a single virtuous individual: the law of averages forbids us to suppose that the mag­ nificent were numerous through the chance occurrence of individual dispositions. Either magnificence is an invariant, and then we have to discover the sociological and historical explanation of its diffusion; or it is a virtue, collective or individual, and then we have to isolate its invariants. 4. Invariants and modifications I propose provisionally to reduce euergetism to two or three themes that I shall define, or at least exemplify, in the course of this book.

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