By Jennifer Tolbert Roberts
The classical Athenians have been the 1st to articulate and enforce the idea that standard voters of no specific affluence or schooling can make dependable political judgements. for that reason, reactions to Athenian democracy have lengthy supplied a main trying out floor for political notion. even if praising Athens's govt because the valid ancestor of recent democracies or condemning it as mob rule, commentators all through background have printed a lot approximately their very own notions of politics and society. This learn charts responses to Athenian democracy from the traditional global to the twentieth century, exploring a debate that touches upon historiography, ethics, political technological know-how, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender experiences and academic conception. Rooted within the bias of Greek intellectuals, the textual content argues, hostility to Athenian democracy received power from the propensity of Western thinkers to learn background backward and infer the impotence of Athens's type of govt from the Athenians' final defeat by means of Macedon in 338 BC. In time, dislike of Athenian executive constructed right into a strong highbrow build that stood principally unchallenged till the early nineteenth century. within the epilogue, the writer examines the controversies that proceed to enclose Athens at the moment.
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Extra resources for Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought
What has been left out of writing about Athens itself tells a dramatic tale. ”26 The same principle has characterized writing about Greece until the later part of the twentieth century, and it still obtains in many quarters today. It explains the joyous exaltation in the Renaissance and the eighteenth century of the repressive Spartan oligarchy as a “mixed government” whose “democratic” element was provided by the tiny INTRODUCTION 19 minority of Spartiate warriors, and it explains the striking omission of slavery from the pivotal history of Greece penned just before the American Civil War by George Grote.
8 The ostracism of Cimon brought to a head the underlying tensions between Athens and Sparta, a very different kind of polis. Although bitter civil strife appears to have plagued the Spartans early in their history, the story was current in Greece how their legendary lawgiver Lycurgus had established a political system—indeed, an entire way of life—that had endured with minor revisions for centuries. With their two kings, their ﬁve ephors (“overseers”), their council of twenty-eight elders, and their assembly of citizens (the “Equals”), the Spartans were envied by many Greeks for the notorious stability of their government and the concord among their citizens.
INTRODUCTION 17 People who write about Athens by their own choice and not because they have been compelled to do so by a teacher whom they will remember grimly in adult life inevitably have some stake in this now-dead civilization. ) Not everyone’s stake is the same, and the nature of the stake will shape what is written. There is no innocent and value-free writing about Greece. How could there have been, when Greek men who took up their pens were heavily invested in the political universe that swirled around them?