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Political violence, which the ancient Greeks called stasis, fundamentally influenced the development of Greek society. Existing scholarship recognizes the importance of stasis but leaves three central questions unresolved: How frequent was stasis? How much violence did staseis involve? How does stasis compare to other types of political violence, such as civil war? In my dissertation, Stasis: the nature, frequency, and intensity of political violence in ancient Greece, I answer these unresolved questions.
By conducting the first systematic examination of the way in which evidence is distributed among the more than 1,000 poleis of ancient Greece, I show that the assumptions of existing scholarship concerning the frequency and intensity of stasis are products of evidentiary scarcity and bias. I then correct for both scarcity and bias and situate stasis in a comparative perspective to show that stasis was more frequent but less intense than analogous types of conflict in other premodern societies. Finally, I attribute the high frequency and low intensity of stasis to the relatively low cost of exile in ancient Greece, which made potential participants in stasis more likely to initiate conflicts, when given the chance, but less likely to fight to the death, when they found themselves at a clear disadvantage.