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date: 28 January 2023

reciprocity, Greeklocked

reciprocity, Greeklocked

  • Tazuko Angela van Berkel


Reciprocity is a modern concept used in classical scholarship to denote the principle and practice of voluntary requital, both of benefit-for-benefit (positive reciprocity) and of harm-for-harm (negative reciprocity). The concept originated in the discipline of economic anthropology, but has been fruitful in the analysis of social, erotic, financial, political, and religious life in the Greek world. As a principle, reciprocity structures the plot of Homeric epics and Attic tragedy. It is also a phenomenon reflected on in diverse genres: its political meaning is explored in Homeric depictions of leadership crises and in Xenophon’s leadership theory. Presocratic cosmologies and early Greek historiography experiment with reciprocity as an explanatory principle. Attic tragedy and moral philosophy expose the implications and shortcomings of the ethical norm of reciprocity.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Philosophy

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

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