To adopt such a stance is, of course, to challenge the (by now) common set of claims to the effect that «Homer’s man experiences himself as a plurality, rather than a unity, with an indistinct boundary», reflecting, it may be, the survival in the Homeric psychology of an archaic pattern of thought to which a clearly differentiated concept of individual identity was foreign, one that saw, in effect, no strongly defined boundaries between the self and the collectivity to which it belonged. To adopt such a stance is to brush to one side related but broader claims to the effect that the later world of the Greek polis was still something of a shame culture, one that predicated norms of behavior embedded in the existing mores of society. A culture, in effect, that lacked a sense of what Charles Taylor has called «reflexive inwardness» and of the notion of the individual will that is presuposed by the modern emphasis in the judgment of action on inward intention and moral responsibility. (…)
Few today, I suspect, would wish to deny that the average inhabitant of the Greek polis was conceived (and, like his archaic forebears, somehow intuited himself) less as an individual possessed of a personal history unique to him and standing ultimately alone than as an integral part of the society to which it belonged, deriving therefrom his identity and whatever value he possessed. So far as participation in public life was concerned, and if we take as an illustration Athens, about which we are comparatively well informed, even the members of the small and exclusively male minority that enjoyed the privilege of citizenship did not do so by virtue of their status as individuals. The political society to which they belonged was constituted not by a body or community of individual citizens but by a collection of genes and phratries, groupings based on blood or tribal relationships, whether real or fictitious -or, from the time (507 BCE) of the reforms of Kleisthenes onward, composed of territorial groupings
known as demes. Those who enjoyed the privilege of citizenship, then, did so not by virtue of any individual status but because of their membership in a demos to which their ancestors had belonged and which was possessed, like the earlier gene or phratries, of its own ancestor or hero cult and of the priesthood that went with it.