Freedom, ethical choice and the Hellenistic Polis

Benjamin Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines ideas of individual freedom in the Hellenistic city-states (c. 323–31 BC). It concentrates on the civic ideas expressed in the laws and decrees of Hellenistic cities, inscribed on stone, comparing them with Hellenistic historical and philosophical works. It places different Hellenistic approaches alongside modern liberal, neo-Roman republican and civic humanist theories of individual liberty, finding some overlaps with each of those modern approaches. The argument is that the Hellenistic Greeks developed innovative ways of combining demanding ideals of civic virtue and the common good with equally robust ideals of individual freedom and ethical choice. They did so not least by adapting and developing traditional Greek approaches close to modern civic humanism, in ways very relevant to modern debates about how to reconcile civic duty, the common good and pluralism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-742
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number6
Early online date20 Dec 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2018


  • Polis
  • Hellenistic
  • liberalism
  • republicanism
  • civic humanism


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