Marc Domingo Gygax

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline History
Professor of Classics, Department of Classics, Princeton University

Research project

Gift-Giving in Ancient Greek Society


The project which I propose to pursue at the institute consists of a book-length study, tentatively entitled Giving and Taking in Ancient Greece, that analyses the basic principles and evolution of gift-giving in the Greek world. My interest in the topic derives primarily from my work on Greek euergetism (the phenomenon of voluntary donations by wealthy citizens and foreigners to city-states, and the reciprocal recognition of these services as benefactions). Early on in my research on that subject, I arrived at the conclusion that euergetism was best examined as an institution based on gift-exchange. I also discovered that no comprehensive, systematic study of Greek gift-giving exists. Having addressed the first question in various publications, including my book Benefaction and Rewards in the Ancient Greek City. The Origins of Euergetism (Cambridge, 2016), I plan to turn now to the broader topic of gift-giving, on which I have already published some preliminary work.


Ever since the publication of Mauss’ Essai sur le don (1924), the topic of gift-giving has occupied a central place in the work of cultural and social anthropologists, sociologists, economists and philosophers. Provided one takes the term in a broad sense that includes material objects and services, interaction with other human beings can be understood as largely a process of giving and receiving gifts. As many scholars insist, gift-giving is "the cement of society", including pre-modern and modern societies. But the significance of the practice is more easily observed in archaic communities, where the lack of a developed monetary economy and the weakness of state institutions led individuals to rely more on gifts to achieve their ends.


In this sense, Greek society – ignored by Mauss in his essay – represents a particularly interesting case. Not only does a substantial amount of literary, epigraphic and archaeological information survive, but the rules and language of gift-giving played a significant role in daily interactions between individuals, and in the relationships between mass and elite and between communities and external agents. And while the process of giving and receiving gifts is key to understanding Greek civilization — much more so than Roman society —it also illuminates the role of the gift in the modern Western world in at least two ways. First, by contrast: the Greek practice was characterized by a strong sense of reciprocity, whereas modern behavior has been decisively shaped by Christian morality; and second, from a "genealogical" point of view: despite differences, the Christian conception of the gift has Greek roots and important continuities with pre-Christian gift-giving.






Marc Domingo Gygax is Professor of Classics at the Department of Classics at Princeton University. He holds a Ph.D in History (Ancient History) from the University of Barcelona. His main research interests lie in Hellenistic history, the history of classical Athens and archaic Greece, Greek epigraphy, ancient and modern philosophy of history, and historical anthropology.




Selected publications


Benefactors and the Polis. Origins and Development of the Public Gift in the Greek Cities from the Homeric World to Late Antiquity, with A. Zuiderhoek (eds), Cambridge University Press. [forthcoming]


Benefaction and Rewards in the Ancient Greek City: The Origins of Euergetism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2016.


'The Multiple Identities of Elias Bickerman’, in J. Manning (ed.), Michael Rostovtzeff, Elias J. Bickerman and the ‘Hellenization of Asia’. From Alexander the Great to World War II, Franz Steiner, Oriens and Occidens Series, Stuttgart, 2015, pp. 71-87.


'Gift-Giving and Power-Relationships in Greek Social Praxis and Public Discourse', in M. Satlow (ed.), The Gift in Antiquity, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford, 2013, pp. 45-60.


Untersuchungen zu den lykischen Gemeinwesen in klassischer und hellenistischer Zeit, Antiquitas series, Habelt, Bonn, 2001.




junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Literature
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Sociology