Aaron Hershkowitz

Aaron is a New Jersey native and PhD candidate in the Classics graduate program. His undergraduate work was performed at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he completed a dual degree in English Language and Literature (with a focus on medieval literature under the guidance of Professor Thomas Moser) and Classical Languages and Literature (with a focus on Augustan elegiac poetry under the guidance of Professor Judith Hallett). His current research project, performed under the guidance of Thomas Figueira, is on the “Athenian Tribute Lists”, a group of fragmentary inscriptions from 5th-century BCE Athens. They displayed in public a list of the payments of a 1/60th share (the aparkhe) from the annual phoros ‘tribute’ payments of the members of the Delian League (a group of more or less willing allies of Athens), which share was dedicated to the cult of the goddess Athena. These tribute lists provide a unique window on the economic, financial, and power structure of the ancient Athenian Empire akin to what current tax documents would provide a researcher in 4513 CE seeking to understand the economy of the United States in 2013 CE.

The introduction of digital analysis to the tribute lists has been Aaron’s initiative over the last three years. His motivating insight was the recognition that the tribute lists were essentially an enormous classical Greek data table used in fiscal administration. Aaron digitized the published characterizations of the 2431 surviving tribute payments and applied the statistical and data manipulation tools of Microsoft Excel, to create the “Digital Tribute Lists” and characterize the data set as a whole for the first time. The results of the analyses gave some new insight into how Athens could have approached tribute assessment systematically (e.g. based on the amount of tribute or geographical district), but they also provide a more stable basis for decisions about restoring the text of the inscriptions by analyzing the data set as a whole. Aaron’s research has been supported by the Cook Travel Scholarship and the GSNB Dean’s Research Award. He recently won a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to continue his research in Athens, Greece by performing a first hand examination of the inscriptions; this will enable a more precise knowledge of the mechanics of Athenian imperialism and a new picture of ancient taxation. The Fulbright Grant is in association with the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, which will host Aaron for his research and from whom he will hold an Honorary James Rignall Wheeler Fellowship.