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Translated by Brian PearceThe phenomenon, known as "euergetism", is one of the most striking features of the ancient world. It can be seen as a form of altruism, civic pride or wealth redistribution, a means of buying honour, prestige or political power, yet one thing is clear: it was long regarded as a duty and privilege of the wealthy to benefit their fellow citizens. To understand why, suggests Professor Veyne, we need to forget about abstract theories and modern economics. Rather, we should examine what really happened before the Christian era in Hellenistic Greece and the Rome of the Republic and the Emperors.
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