Marx’s evening relaxation

It is always a great pleasure to reread Geoffrey Ernest Maurice de Ste. Croix’s great but thus far understudied work, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (winner of the Deutscher Prize in 1982). I am working through the book again in the process of writing our Time of TroublesAnyway, Ste. Croix has a fascinating section on Marx as a European classicist, where he traces the rise of interest in Marx’s thought in the 1970s after a very long period of complete neglect.

To indicate Marx’s lifelong interest in the European classics, after his PhD thesis on Democritus and Epicurus, Ste. Croix mentions a letter to Engels in 1861. Marx writes: ‘As  relaxation in the evening, I have been reading Appian on the Roman civil wars, in the original Greek’.

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3 thoughts on “Marx’s evening relaxation

  1. Indeed, Ste Croix is much understudied. Some have completely missed Croix’s point that mass (estate) slavery was largely absent in the southern Levant throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

    “In those parts of Asia Minor and Syria which were brought into the Greek world from the late fourth century onwards, with the conquests of Alexander and the many city foundations of that monarch and his successors, slavery already existed; but the institution was not nearly as developed as in the Greek world, and it seems likely that a far larger place was occupied than in Old Greece by other forms of exploitation: occasionally outright serfdom and debt bondage, but also exploitation of free or semi–free peasants through rent and tributary payments…. (Ste. Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, pp. 227–28).

    That is, slavery had little effect on the nature of the Judean economy. I trust that your forthcoming book will point this out.

    1. If you had read Ste. Croix carefully, you would have noted four modes of exploitation: slavery, debt bondage, indentured ‘peasants’ (coloni in the early Christian era), and the ‘peasants’ as such in the colonial-Hellenistic mutation of the polis/chora distinction. The Romans, however, viewed all of them through the lens of slavery.

      1. Of course. One doesn’t have to read Ste. Croix very carefully to notice his inflated definition of “slavery”.

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