ISONOMIA

I owe many of my ideas to my pupils. After he had read me his essay, Frank Marsden and I were discussing how it was that the concept of Isonomia had arisen in Ancient Greece in the age of colonisation, and he wondered whether it had anything to do with the setting up of a colony. For many years the end of egalitarianism in the Ancient World had been a topic for a joint seminar on philosophy and ancient history, but suddenly we began to see how it might have begun in the distribution of shares in a new colony, and the ambiguity in the Greek words nemo and nomos.

I ruminated in the summer of 1987. I remember working through Martin Ostwald's Nomos and the Beginnings of Greek Democracy, and sitting in the garden of Postmasters' Hall, Oxford, ferreting out details of colonies being founded on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth near Naupactus. The evidence seemed to support the thesis, but was bit late. Still, words and ideas often take time before they are written down or carved in stone. I remember also sitting in the Bodleain, trying to track down the etymology of the Greek root NEM---there was a paer by someone in Nancy, I remember, that was helpful, but not decisive. I needed to do more research to clinch the argument, but other commitments pressed in on me, and I laid aside teh notes I had made. Worse, I lost them. I hoped they would turn up when I went through all my papers on retirement, but nothing surfaced. What is published here is a draft I had written around that time, without benefit of the missing notes. It may be wrong. It is certainly inadequately researched. But someone else may be able to use it to establish---or refute---an interesting case.

J.R.L.

9th September, 2003

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