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Text and bibliography updated to reflect current scholarship. Keywords, primary texts, links to digital materials, and summary added.

Updated on 23 May 2019. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 17 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Euergetism is the modern scholarly term, derived from the ancient Greek euergetes (benefactor), to denote the phenomenon of elite gift-giving to cities (or to groups within them) in Greek and Roman societies. The term encompasses benefactions by Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors, but is mostly used to refer to the munificence of local civic elites. Recent scholarship stresses the transactional character of euergetism: benefactors donated or contributed to public buildings (including temples), festivals, and games, or they gave distributions of food or money or organized public banquets in exchange for publicly awarded honours: usually including an honorific inscription recording the benefaction and the accolades awarded to the donor in return, often accompanied by a statue of him or her. In Archaic and 5th-century bce Greece, cities mostly honoured foreign benefactors in this way, but from the 4th century bce onward, it became more and more normal for wealthy citizens to donate to their own city in exchange for public honours awarded by their fellow-citizens. Civic euergetism of this type became increasingly common in Greek cities during the Hellenistic period. Its greatest proliferation, however, was under Roman imperial rule during the 1st, 2nd and early 3rd centuries ce, when we have more inscriptions for benefactors in cities in both East and West than ever before. From the mid-3rd century ce onward, civic munificence starts to decline, though benefactions by the wealthy remain an aspect of late antique civic society.

Keywords: benefactions, benefactors, euergetism, foundations, generosity, gifts, honorific inscriptions, liturgies, munificence

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