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Benjamin Grünert

PhD thesis project: The Community of the Homoioi. Studies of the Practice and Semantics of Personal Relations and Ties of Loyalty in Sparta.

Personal Information


Date of Birth: August 14th 1982 in Tuttlingen (Germany)


University Education 

  • Since 08/2009 PhD student in Ancient History at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br. (Germany)
  • 09/2003-07/2009 Studies of Ancient History and Archaeology (early history) at Freiburg University
  • Topic of M.A. thesis: The Curse as an Act of Revenge. Investigations Using the Example of the Polis Selinous, supervised by Prof. Dr. Astrid Möller


  • 12/2009-11/2012 PhD scholarship at the DFG-research group (GRK 1288): Friends, Patrons, Clients. Practice and Semantics of Friendship and Patronage in Historical, Anthropological and Cross-cultural Perspectives at Freiburg University

Work Experience 

  • 04/2009-03/2010 Research/-teaching assistant at the Department of Ancient History at Freiburg University
  • 10/2007-07/2009 Tutor at the Department of Ancient History at Freiburg University
  • 06/2006-07/2007 Student research assistant at the Department of Pre- and Early History and Medieval Archaeology at Freiburg University


  • 2004-2008 Participation in several archaeological excavations, predominantly in the urban area of Freiburg


The Community of the Homoioi. Studies of the Practice and Semantics of Personal Relations and Ties of Loyalty in Sparta.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Astrid Möller

Supervisor at the DFG-research group: Prof. Dr. Ronald G. Asch

The aim of my PhD project is to provide an analysis of the practice and semantics of personal relations with symmetrical and asymmetrical ties of loyalty beyond the context of family and kinship in ancient Sparta. My particular emphases are personal relations and ties of loyalty within and beyond the community of Spartan male citizens, the Spartiates. Further emphasis will rest on the impact of these relations and ties of loyalty on Spartan policy and body politic in the 5th/4th century B. C. With reference to this aim, the focal point of my analysis is dealing with the specific situation of sources concerning Spartan history in this period.

The Spartiates comprise the one juridically and socially defined group of the polis, from which all political and military office holders were appointed, with the exception of the Spartan kings. Since the Spartiates were marked by a distinct and highly prescribed way of life, they were already considered in antiquity to be a community of “equals” or “peers” (homoioi). This way of life involves for instance passing on the specific Spartan educational system as well as living together in tent and meal communities.

Until now, Sparta has been perceived by scholarship as a polis, in which friendship and patronage played an important role in association with policy and body politic. It is assumed that these relationships not only exercised a huge influence on the appointment of political and military office holders, but also generally on the processes of decision making in the political and juridical sphere.

The focal question of the PhD project is, whether this hypothesis can be maintained or not with respect to the body of source material which can be used for an analysis of ancient Spartan history. Especially for the classical period, there is a serious lack of genuine Spartan testimonials, which disallows us to get a valid insider’s view from the polis. On the other hand, there is a large amount of ancient literary texts which admittedly inform us about Spartan history in the 5th/4th century B. C., but give us an outsider’s look at the polis. In part, these texts either directly come from Athens or are suspected to echo an Athenian perspective in various aspects. Realising that current research is assuming in the case of Athens that friendship and patronage have either none or just a small impact on Athenian policy, we have to ask to what extent the accounts in our sources possibly provide us with a discourse on Spartan policy which could be influenced by an Athenian perspective.

To answer this question, all descriptions of friendship and patronage in the policy of Sparta will be analysed from a discourse-historical view in the context of the PhD project. The aim of the analysis is to clarify to what extent there can be detected a consequence of why Spartan policy is described in association with these kinds of relationships by ancient authors only in this way and no other. In addition, the PhD project wants to understand how friendship and patronage were imagined in association with Sparta, to get a deeper look into the Greek world of thought in the classical period. Such observations are revealing because they give us information about the conceptualisation of personal relationships depending on a potential ideologisation of body politics and their policies. Furthermore, they contribute to our comprehension of contemporary processes of conceiving or designing reality as well as their reception.



  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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