Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jennifer Roberts

Committee Members

Angelos Chaniotis

Dee Clayman

Joel Lidov

Subject Categories



Epigraphy, Hellenistic Age, Black Sea, Political Culture, Rhetoric, Oligarchy Oligarchy


The purpose of this study is to examine the political culture of the Greek North Pontic cities of Olbia and Chersonesos through a rhetorical analysis of the honorary decrees passed by their respective ekklesiai during the Long Hellenistic Age (third century BCE until the mid-third century CE). The study seeks to achieve two main goals: to examine these decrees to understand the political framework of the two cities; and to understand the relationship between the elite recipients of the honors and the demos that awarded them. This investigation employs evidence from early fourth century BCE until the incorporation of the two cities into Roman province of Lower Moesia—during reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

The thesis examines the decrees as texts and moves from the macro to the micro—from the institutional, social, and political framework of the two cities; to the ideas and values they espouse; and to the semantic and syntactic choices made by each composer of a decree. The study uses the additional evidence of the ancient commentators on rhetoric in order not only to recognize, but also to understand the choices made by each text’s author. These ancient commentators include: Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and the progymnasmata, contemporary handbooks on rhetoric.

It is the final contention of this study that the decrees are ultimately products of a rhetorical education that only the wealthy could afford. The selected epigraphical evidence of honorary decrees from the Greek cities of Olbia and Chersonesos indicate that these Hellenistic democratic poleis were, in fact, de facto oligarchies throughout the examined period.

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