G. E. M. de Ste. Croix

Geoffrey Ernest Maurice de Ste. Croix (/dəseɪntˈkrɔɪ/; 8 February 1910 – 5 February 2000), known informally as Croicks,[1] was a British historian who specialised in examining the classical era from a Marxist perspective. He was Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at New College, Oxford from 1953 to 1977, where he taught scholars including Robin Lane Fox, Robert Parker and Nicholas Richardson.

De Ste. Croix used this picture (The Potato Eaters by Van Gogh, 1885) as the frontispiece for his book The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World


De Ste. Croix (Sainte Croix) was born in Macau. His parents were also born in China to British expatriates. His father, Ernest Henry de Ste Croix, who died when he was four, was an official in the Chinese Customs. Their Huguenot ancestors fled to Jersey during the time of Louis XIV.[2] His mother, née Florence Annie MacGowan, was the daughter of a Protestant missionary.[3]

He was educated at Clifton College, in Bristol. He left school at the age of 15 and became an articled clerk, which allowed him to train as a solicitor, without a degree in law. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1932 and practised until 1940.[4]

He had a strong physique and was a talented tennis player, competing in the singles and doubles tournament at Wimbledon from 1930 to 1932.[5]

During World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force, and was stationed for a time in Egypt, where he had the opportunity to expand his knowledge of ancient languages.

After the war ended, de Ste. Croix studied ancient history at University College, London. From 1950 to 1953 he taught at the London School of Economics and Birkbeck College, before being appointed a fellow of New College, Oxford. He lived at Oxford for the rest of his life. He had a daughter, who predeceased him, from his first marriage (1932–59). He had two sons from his second marriage.[2]


Within the circles of classical scholarship, de Ste. Croix—as an exponent of a Marxist epistemological approach—was frequently involved in debate with Sir Moses Finley, an advocate of Weberian societal analysis. The two often exchanged letters and their disagreements were always civil.

De Ste. Croix is best known for his books The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (1972) and The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (1981). He was also a noted contributor on the issue of Christian persecution between the reigns of the Roman Emperors Trajan and Diocletian. Of particular note in this regard are the articles written by de Ste. Croix and A. N. Sherwin-White, each challenging the opinions of the other. There were four in total, displaying the light-hearted banter evident also in de Ste. Croix's correspondence with Moses Finley.

The Character of the Athenian Empire

De Ste. Croix's influential article The Character of the Athenian Empire, which first appeared in Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte (1954, 3, pp. 1–41), provoked a fresh debate about the nature of the Delian League and the Athenian Empire which continues to this day. The article was based on a paper The Alleged Unpopularity of the Athenian Empire delivered to the London Classical Association on 14 June 1950.[6]

The Origins of the Peloponnesian War

The Origins of the Peloponnesian War made several major contributions to scholarship on the subject, the major one being a reinterpretation of the Megarian Decree, passed by the Athenian Ekklesia in 432 BC. Most scholarship hitherto had considered the decree to involve economic sanctions by excluding the Megarian state and Megarian traders from access to ports throughout the Athenian Empire. De Ste. Croix instead interpreted it as a religious sanction (drawing an analogy with the Spartan demand—in response to the Megarian Decree and other Athenian policies — that Athens expel some religiously-tainted citizens). De Ste. Croix maintained that the sanction was exercised not to hurt the Megarians—which it could not do, given the nature of trade and economics in the ancient world, but on religious grounds felt to be genuine by the Athenians. This argument has not achieved general acceptance among historians.[7]

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World was an attempt to establish the validity of a historical materialist analysis of the ancient Greek and Roman world. It covers the period roughly from Greek pre-classical times to the Arab conquest. Part one addresses fundamental topics. After an expository plan chapter II (Class, Exploitation, and Class Struggle) begins with an apologia of De Ste. Croix's understanding of basic classical Marxist theory (§ I The nature of class society) and some specific terms (§ II 'Class', 'exploitation', and 'the class struggle' defined). The remainder of Part One is a detailed analysis of these concepts applied to the Ancient Greek World (Chs. III Property and the Propertied and IV Forms of Exploitation in the Ancient Greek World, and the Small Independent Producer).

Part II contains the historical analysis per se and begins (Ch. V The Class Struggle in Greek History on the Political Plane) with an exposition of how the economic processes addressed in part I lead to a gradual but complete eradication of Greek democracy by the middle of the Roman principate. The remaining chapters (VI Rome the Suzerain, VII The Class Struggle on the Ideological Plane, and VIII 'The Decline and Fall' of the Roman Empire: an Explanation) focus primarily on Rome and put forth the thesis that it was the increasing dependence on slave labor and diminishment of what would be considered in a modern context the middle classes that was the actual cause of the collapse. There is also a lengthy discussion of the significance of the mode by which surplus value is generated. De Ste. Croix makes the point that the mode of surplus extraction is not necessarily the same as the mode of production engaged in by a majority of the population. Specifically, that while a relatively small portion of the work force were slaves, Rome under the principate nonetheless became essentially a slave society.

Selected publications

  • "The character of the Athenian empire" in Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 1954, 3, pp. 1–41.
  • "Greek And Roman Accounting" 1956.
  • The Origins of the Peloponnesian War. London: Duckworth, 1972.
  • Early Christian attitudes to property and slavery. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975.
  • The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests. London, Duckworth, 1981.


  1. ^ "Geoffrey de Ste Croix" by David Harvey, The Guardian, 10 February 2000. Archived here.
  2. ^ a b British Academy (2001). 2000 Lectures and Memoirs (PDF). Oxford University Press. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-19-726259-7.
  3. ^ Parker, R. C. T. (2004). Ste Croix, Geoffrey Ernest Maurice de. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  4. ^ "British Academy biographies"
  5. ^ http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/scores/draws/archive/players/7bb1b614-b303-472f-8645-212a3e939580/index.html
  6. ^ de Ste Croix, G.E.M. (1954) "The character of the Athenian empire", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 3, p. 1.
  7. ^ Chester Starr, in The American Historical Review (v. 78, no. 3, p. 663) described The Origins of the Peloponnesian War as "superb in its argumentation and wrongheaded in its thrust."

Further reading

  • Cartledge, P.A. and Harvey, F.D. (eds) (1985) Crux: Essays Presented to G.E.M. de Ste. Croix on his 75th Birthday. London: Duckworth in association with Imprint Academic.

External links

Collatio lustralis

The collatio lustralis was a tax on "traders in the widest sense" in the Roman Empire. It was instituted by Constantine, although there are some indications that such a tax existed during the reign of Caligula (see Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars). It applied to both the Western and Eastern Empire. It was originally collected in both gold and silver, but only in gold beginning in the late 4th century. Like many Roman taxes, it was collected not annually, but (originally) every four years.

It applied to all merchants, money-lenders, craftsmen, and others who received fees for their work, including prostitutes. The only initial exemptions were physicians, teachers, and farmers selling their own produce.

Deaths in February 2000

The following is a list of notable deaths in February 2000.

Entries for each day are listed alphabetically by surname. A typical entry lists information in the following sequence:

Name, age, country of citizenship at birth, subsequent country of citizenship (if applicable), reason for notability, cause of death (if known), and reference.

Diocletianic Persecution

The Diocletianic or Great Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding Christians' legal rights and demanding that they comply with traditional religious practices. Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the gods. The persecution varied in intensity across the empire—weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors (Galerius with the Edict of Serdica in 311) at different times, but Constantine and Licinius's Edict of Milan (313) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution.

Christians had always been subject to local discrimination in the empire, but emperors prior to Diocletian were reluctant to issue general laws against the sect. In the 250s, under the reigns of Decius and Valerian, Roman subjects including Christians were compelled to sacrifice to Roman gods or face imprisonment and execution, but there is no evidence that these edicts were specifically intended to attack Christianity. After Gallienus's accession in 260, these laws went into abeyance. Diocletian's assumption of power in 284 did not mark an immediate reversal of imperial inattention to Christianity, but it did herald a gradual shift in official attitudes toward religious minorities. In the first fifteen years of his rule, Diocletian purged the army of Christians, condemned Manicheans to death, and surrounded himself with public opponents of Christianity. Diocletian's preference for activist government, combined with his self-image as a restorer of past Roman glory, foreboded the most pervasive persecution in Roman history. In the winter of 302, Galerius urged Diocletian to begin a general persecution of the Christians. Diocletian was wary, and asked the oracle of Apollo for guidance. The oracle's reply was read as an endorsement of Galerius's position, and a general persecution was called on February 24, 303.

Persecutory policies varied in intensity across the empire. Whereas Galerius and Diocletian were avid persecutors, Constantius was unenthusiastic. Later persecutory edicts, including the calls for universal sacrifice, were not applied in his domain. His son, Constantine, on taking the imperial office in 306, restored Christians to full legal equality and returned property that had been confiscated during the persecution. In Italy in 306, the usurper Maxentius ousted Maximian's successor Severus, promising full religious toleration. Galerius ended the persecution in the East in 311, but it was resumed in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor by his successor, Maximinus. Constantine and Licinius, Severus's successor, signed the Edict of Milan in 313, which offered a more comprehensive acceptance of Christianity than Galerius's edict had provided. Licinius ousted Maximinus in 313, bringing an end to persecution in the East.

The persecution failed to check the rise of the Church. By 324, Constantine was sole ruler of the empire, and Christianity had become his favored religion. Although the persecution resulted in death, torture, imprisonment, or dislocation for many Christians, the majority of the empire's Christians avoided punishment. The persecution did, however, cause many churches to split between those who had complied with imperial authority (the traditores), and those who had remained "pure". Certain schisms, like those of the Donatists in North Africa and the Meletians in Egypt, persisted long after the persecutions. The Donatists would not be reconciled to the Church until after 411. Some historians consider that, in the centuries that followed the persecutory era, Christians created a "cult of the martyrs", and exaggerated its barbarity. Such Christian accounts were criticized during the Enlightenment and afterwards, most notably by Edward Gibbon. Modern historians, such as G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, have attempted to determine whether Christian sources exaggerated the scope of the Diocletianic persecution.

Hiera Orgas

The 'Hiera Orgas' (Ancient Greek: ἱερὰ ὀργάς), meaning ‘sacred meadow’, was a site, which featured in at least two conflicts between Athens and Megara.

List of Fellows of the British Academy elected in the 1970s

The British Academy consists of world-leading scholars and researchers in the humanities and social sciences. Each year, it elects fellows to its membership. The following were elected in the 1970s.

List of Old Cliftonians

This is a list of notable Old Cliftonians, former pupils of Clifton College in Bristol in the West of England.

See also Category:People educated at Clifton College.

Long Walls

Although long walls were built at several locations in ancient Greece, notably Corinth and Megara, the term Long Walls (Ancient Greek: Μακρὰ Τείχη) generally refers to the walls that connected Athens to its ports at Piraeus and Phalerum. Built in several phases, they provided a secure connection to the sea even during times of siege. The walls were about 6 km in length, initially constructed in the mid 5th century BC, destroyed by the Spartans in 403 BC after Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War, and rebuilt again with Persian support during the Corinthian War in 395-391 BC. The Long Walls were a key element of Athenian military strategy, since they provided the city with a constant link to the sea and thwarted sieges conducted by land alone.

Nicholas Richardson

Nicholas James Richardson is a British Classical scholar and formerly Warden of Greyfriars, Oxford, from 2004 until 2007.

Nicholas Richardson was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (Honour Moderations in Literae Humaniores first class, Final Honour School of Literae Humaniores first class, BPhil, DPhil). From 1960 until 1961 he was a student of ancient historian G.E.M. de Ste Croix, and contributed to his festschrift entitled Crux.

He was appointed Lecturer at Pembroke and Trinity and in 1968 Fellow and Tutor in Classics of Merton. He was Chairman of the University-wide Tutors for Graduates Committee 1988-93, Governor of Plater College 1993-99, and Sub-Warden of Merton 1998-2000. He became Warden of Greyfriars in 2004. He was the first layperson to hold that office. He retired in 2007. He is now an Emeritus Fellow of Merton.

Richardson was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1985.

Paul Cartledge

Paul Anthony Cartledge (born 24 March 1947) is a British ancient historian and academic. From 2008 to 2014 he was the A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge. He had previously held a personal chair in Greek History at Cambridge.

Pythion of Megara

Pythion of Megara, died c. 446 BC, was a citizen of Megara who was commemorated for his courage in battle and for saving three Athenian tribes from death. His existence is known from an inscription on a commemorative stele found in the grave area outside the Acharnian Gate in Classical Athens. Pythion's actions are significant within the context of the campaigns in 446 BC that marked the closing stages of the First Peloponnesian War , and the stele as an object in itself is significant.

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Eng. The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments. The Res Gestae is especially significant because it gives an insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people. Various portions of the Res Gestae have been found in modern Turkey. The inscription itself is a monument to the establishment of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that was to follow Augustus.

Robin Lane Fox

Robin James Lane Fox, FRSL (born 5 October 1946) is an English classicist, ancient historian and gardening writer known for his works on Alexander the Great. Lane Fox is an Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford and Reader in Ancient History, University of Oxford. Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at New College from 1977 to 2014, he serves as Garden Master and as Extraordinary Lecturer in Ancient History for both New and Exeter Colleges. He has also taught Greek and Latin literature and early Islamic history.His major publications, for which he has won literary prizes including the James Tait Black Award, the Duff Cooper Prize, the Heinemann Award and the Runciman Award, include studies of Alexander the Great and Ancient Macedon, Late Antiquity, Christianity and Paganism, the Bible and history, and the Greek Dark Ages. His most recent book in 2015 concerns the patristic author Augustine of Hippo.

Slavery in antiquity

Slavery in the ancient world, from the earliest known recorded evidence in Sumer to the pre-medieval Antiquity Mediterranean cultures, comprised a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war.Masters could free slaves, and in many cases such freedmen went on to rise to positions of power. This would include those children born into slavery but who were actually the children of the master of the house. Their father would ensure that his children were not condemned to a life of slavery.

The institution of slavery condemned a majority of slaves to agricultural and industrial labor and they lived hard lives. In many of these cultures slaves formed a very large part of the economy, and in particular the Roman Empire and some of the Greek poleis built a large part of their wealth on slaves acquired through conquest.

Stasis (political history)

Stasis (Ancient Greek: στάσις) is a term in Greek political history. It refers to:

the constant feuds between aristocrats in archaic Greece, and their struggles to attain the best in title (aristos is Greek for "the best") both in terms of prestige and property. It led to various civil wars and the establishment of Tyrannies in many cities of ancient Greece, most notably the Tyranny of Peisistratos in Athens

the feuding between oligarchic and democratic factions in the Greek city-states of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This is a theme of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, which features a famous description of factional fighting on the island of Corcyra (modern Corfu).

Studies in the Labour Theory of Value

Studies in the Labour Theory of Value (1956; second edition 1973) is a book about the labor theory of value by the economist Ronald L. Meek. The book has been praised by commentators.

Thasian rebellion

The Thasian rebellion was an incident in 465 BC, in which Thasos rebelled against Athenian control, seeking to renounce its membership in the Delian League. The rebellion was prompted by a conflict between Athens and Thasos over control of silver deposits on the Thracian mainland, which Thasos had traditionally mined.

The rebellion was eventually crushed, after a long and difficult siege, but not before Sparta had secretly promised to invade Attica in support of the Thasians. The Spartans were prevented from making good on this promise only by an earthquake in Laconia, which triggered a helot rebellion.

Thucydides cited the Thasian episode as one of the incidents during the pentecontaetia which marked the transformation of the Delian League into an Athenian empire. Modern scholars have also approached it as a telling indicator of the internal politics of Sparta, revealing the presence of a strong war party there during a time of peace and harmony between Athens and Sparta and foreshadowing the breakdown of relations which would result in the outbreak of the First Peloponnesian War by the end of the decade.

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests is a 1981 book by the British classical historian G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, a fellow of New College, Oxford. The book became a classic of Marxist historiography.


Zosimus (Greek: Ζώσιμος [ˈzosimos]; also known by the Latin name Zosimus Historicus, i.e. "Zosimus the Historian"; fl. 490s–510s) was a Greek historian who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius I (491–518). According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury. Zosimus was also known for condemning Constantine’s rejection of the pagan gods.


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