Marc Domingo Gygax is Professor of Classics at Princeton University. He has held teaching positions at the University of Tübingen and the Free University of Berlin, and research fellowships at the University of California-Berkeley, the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington/DC, and the University of Barcelona. In 2017 he was joint winner of the Runciman Book Award of the Anglo-Hellenic League for his monograph Benefaction and Rewards in the Ancient Greek City. The Origins of Euergetism (Cambridge, 2016), which explored the origins of voluntary donations given by wealthy citizens and foreigners to the ancient Greek city-states and the reciprocal recognition of these services as benefactions.
Ancient Greek history, in particular, the history of archaic Greece, classical Athens and Hellenistic Asia Minor; historical anthropology; Greek epigraphy; ancient and modern historiography; and historical theory.
Gift-Giving in Ancient Greek Society
The project consists of a book-length study, tentatively entitled Gift-Giving in Ancient Greek Society, that analyses the basic principles and evolution of gift-giving in the Greek world. My interest in the topic derives primarily from my work on Greek euergetism, the phenomenon of voluntary donations by wealthy citizens and foreigners to city-states, and the reciprocal recognition of these services as benefactions.
Ever since the publication of Mauss’ Essai sur le don (1924), the topic of gift-giving has occupied a central place in the work of cultural and social anthropologists, sociologists, economists and philosophers. The significance of the practice is more easily observed in archaic communities, where the lack of a developed monetary economy and the weakness of state institutions led individuals to rely more on gifts to achieve their ends. In this sense, Greek society – ignored by Mauss in his essay – represents a particularly interesting case. Not only does a substantial amount of literary, epigraphic and archaeological information survive, but the rules and language of gift-giving played a significant role in daily interactions between individuals, and in the relationships between mass and elite and between communities and external agents. And while the process of giving and receiving gifts is key to understanding Greek civilization — much more so than Roman society —it also illuminates the role of the gift in the modern Western world in at least two ways. First, by contrast: the Greek practice was characterized by a strong sense of reciprocity, whereas modern behavior has been decisively shaped by Christian morality; and second, from a “genealogical” point of view: despite differences, the Christian conception of the gift has Greek roots and important continuities with pre-Christian gift-giving. In my book, I will attempt to identify regularities, patterns and principles underlying the wide range of human actions related to Greek gift-giving.