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Abstract | Scholarship and Leadership on the Black Sea: Clearchus of Heraclea as (Un)Enlightened Tyrant

Clearchus of Heraclea Pontica, who ruled as tyrant from 364 to 352 BC, provides an interesting case-study in the intersection of politics and philosophy in the ancient Greek world. Although trained under Plato and Isocrates in Athens, upon his accession to power in Heraclea, he largely rejected their teachings by becoming cruel and by pandering to the demos. Although formerly a participant in their scholarly community, Clearchus was murdered in 352 by a group of Academy members. This paper thus will analyze several crucial roles (e.g. the tyrant as scholar and the scholar as soldier) to further understand the ways in which political and intellectual developments in the fourth century BC had a symbiotic relationship. In addition, it will evaluate various processes of mobility (e.g. the movement of exiles and the creation of scholarly communities) in the creation of power networks across the Mediterranean. It especially will examine the competitive nature of these mobility processes, as Clearchus and his opponents took advantage of shared networks of knowledge and movement for different sociopolitical strategies. The strategies of Clearchus and his scholarly foes, with their corresponding effects on the polis of Heraclea Pontica, often clashed and resulted in political and ideological rupture encapsulated in the violent murder of the tyrant.

About Jason Harris

Jason R. Harris received his PhD from the University of Southern California in December 2013 and was most recently Visiting Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Tulane University from 2014-2016. He also has held fellowships from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the American Academy in Rome. As CHS/DAI Fellow he will spend the 2016-2017 academic year researching and writing his first monograph based on his USC dissertation (which was titled “The tyrant and the migrant: the bonds between Syracusan hegemony and mobility from Dionysius I to Agathocles”). This monograph, by focusing on the mobility of scholars (including Plato) and the creation of courts (e.g. at Syracuse under the Dionysii) and philosophical communities (e.g. the Academy and the Pythagoreans) across the Mediterranean, will analyze the ways in which this migration of intellectuals and their interaction with major political figures affected the sociopolitical landscape of the late Classical Greek world, acted as a catalyst for literary production, and reflected subsequent empire-building processes of the Hellenistic Period.

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