Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens

By James P. Sickinger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

The Archives in the Metroon

Although it proves impossible to fix the precise year in which the Athenians dedicated a single building to their state archives, a building we shall call the Metroon after its fourth-century name, a date in the last decade of the fifth century is supported by an impressive combination of sources. But simply dating the archive's foundation explains very little. The decision to devote a single building, or portions of it, to the storage of documents signals some recognition of the value of keeping public records, but it leaves unanswered the question of how archival practices actually changed. If all that was involved was the transfer of the Boule's archives into new headquarters, as Jacoby suggested, the overall impact on Athenian record keeping may have been minimal; the Boule kept the same types of records as it had before, except that these were now housed in a separate building. 1 But if the new archive building received types of documents that previously had not been preserved in archival form, either centrally or in the archives of different magistrates, its foundation was far more consequential; Athenians of the fourth century had begun to recognize the value of written records and were now taking steps to see to their preservation.

To assess the impact of this new archival building on Athenian documentary habits, we must start by examining how the records housed in the fourth-century Metroon differed from the types of documents maintained by the Boule or other bodies in the fifth century. Unfortunately, the fifth-century evidence for Athenian archival practice is not extensive; I have argued that the secretary of the Boule regularly kept uninscribed copies of Athenian decrees throughout the fifth century, and that the Boule's archives may have contained a few other documents, but beyond those points, evidence for fifth-century practice offers few specific de

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Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in the History of Greece and Rome *
  • Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Introduction *
  • Chapter One - Thesmothetai, Drakon, and Solon *
  • Chapter Two - Documents and Records in the Sixth Century *
  • Chapter Three - Records and Archives in the Fifth Century *
  • Chapter Four - The Athenian Law Code and the Foundation of the Metroon *
  • Chapter Five - The Archives in the Metroon *
  • Chapter Six - Personnel and Organization *
  • Chapter Seven - Consultation *
  • Conclusion *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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