Interpretative Difficulties

To raise this as a problem of understanding is to raise an issue that was not one during earlier centuries in which Europeans were in the process of forging their identity with the Greeks at the beginning. For centuries it had been thought that one could read the writings of, say, Greeks and Romans, and see there portrayed behaviour that was thought to be admirable in any age. The past was read about for no other reason than that it was thought to be exemplary and capable of being imitated.9 It...

Private and Public Life

This is the reason that their collective regulations protected individual citizens from violations of their person, property and home, from torture, from execution without trial, that is, from harm that could be inflicted by individual officials who might misuse their office and the collective power of the institutions of the polis and, thereby, violate the laws. It has already been mentioned that at the expiration of their term of office, magistrates were called to account and any citizen...

Leadership

Whatever the extent of ordinary political engagement, however, it was accepted that the polis needed to be led and Greek writers distinguished between good and bad 83 Sinclair, Democracy, p. 123 Aristotle possibly exaggerated (AP 24.1-2) when he said that more than 20,000 citizens received hand-outs and public pay from Athens' imperial tnbute and internal revenues. It is doubted whether pay for jury service sufficiently compensated poor citizens for the time spent away from work. character...

Freedom

In general, Greek freedom (eleutheria) meant (1) not to be enslaved, not to serve another man.62 It describes the autonomy of the self-sufficient peasant-farmer citizen. But it has been noted that the emergence of this concept of an autonomous individual, free from servitude, allows for and perhaps depends on its clearly defined opposite the legal slave who, as an individual, was deprived of all rights to autonomy.63 The ancient world in general was comprised of slave-owning cultures and here...

The Sophists

Imagine Athens at this time as the major intellectual and artistic centre for Greece. The economic transformation of the city-state during the fifth century in fact amounted to a revolution, as the economy of the polis became an economy of empire after the destruction of the Persians and the development of trade agreements and a protection alliance, the so-called Delian League of poleis, with Athens in charge. As private affluence increased and public building programmes made Athens a city of...

Citizens The Historical Emergence of the Athenian Democratic Constitution

The Athenian citizen came about as the consequence of a number of now famous attempts first to solve conflicts between rich landowning aristocrats and poor peasant farmers and then to unify separate human groups divided by social, familial, territorial and religious customs. From the early sixth-century populist reforms of the poet legislator Solon (650 561), when debts and debt bondage (loans on the security of the debtor's person) were cancelled (594 3), obligations in the form of produce,...

Socrates

Conversation with Socrates did not turn on the nature of things as a whole, as was the case with most of the others. . . . With him, conversation was always about human affairs. Socrates, a native Athenian, was charged and then tried by a jury of his fellow citizens when he was seventy years old. In the recently restored democracy of 399 bc three private individuals, Meletus, Anytus and Lycon, presented their case against him before a jury consisting of 501 citizens. The indictment and...

The Construction of a European Identity

European cultural identity came to be intimately tied to its purported foundations in ancient Greek culture and values not only during the Middle Ages but even more so during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During this period the ancient world was intensely re-investigated as the inspirational source of a number of key contemporary issues. Perhaps the most prominent of these concerned how emergent national states understood the possible range of legitimate constitutions and their...

How Should We Study the History of Political Thought

The preceding paragraphs may appear rather abstract. But it is important that we consider the difference between 'ancient' and this type of'modern' reason before we look at the writings of earlier political theorists. The purpose of trying to draw a distinction between ancient and modern reason is to elucidate some of the consequences of studying the history of political thought in one way as opposed to another. Modern philosophers and political theorists have increasingly displayed an interest...

Equality Of What and of Whom

Isegoria, equality of public speech, was intimately tied to democracy as a unique kind of civic life, especially in contrast to tyrannies. Isegoria, as Herodotus speaks of it, was that unique characteristic of democracy that allowed each citizen to express his equal membership of the community and in this way he achieved 'his very self through and in community.35 This isegoria, introduced by Kleisthenes in 508 7 bc, was closely linked with the notion of equality of opportunity to participate in...

Heroic Politics versus an Amateur Citizenry Character Formation

It appears that moral conduct, especially of those in authority, and morally correct legislation continued to be thought to be the determinants of a successful polis. As we have seen, Perikles argued that the democratic constitution was organized for the many but he also noted how political leadership fell to those worthy of it in that they were individuals with arete, that is, the best, noblest and ablest. What kind of language is this Scholars who have studied the heroic literature of ancient...

Two Hundred Years of Greek Democracy

They called themselves Hellenes by the seventh century bc and before that, Achaeans or Argives or Danai. In the fifth century bc the historian Herodotus, himself probably not of purely Hellenic origins and a subject of the Persian Empire, tried to define what it meant to be self-consciously Greek (to Hell nikon) in terms of common blood, language, religion and customs.1 Herodotus also tells his readers that an early form of d mokratia can be traced back to the early...

Athenians Reject Oligarchy

The argument between democrats and oligarchs worked itself through the events of the late fifth century bc. Those who during the twenty-seven years of the Peloponnesian war with Sparta (431-404) insisted that the operations of a full democracy caused the lack of Athenian success, not least in prosecuting war, were able briefly to engineer an oligarchic revolution in 411. But with the violent excesses committed by these oligarchs and, in particular, the violence committed by the so-called Thirty...

The History of Philosophy From the Pre Socratic Naturalists to Moral Philosophy

This division of subject matter to be investigated follows the development of Greek speculation itself. The history of philosophy is thought to begin with what are known as the pre-Socratic naturalists seventh to fifth century bc who were concerned with enquiring into the nature and origins of the universe kosmos . It gradually shifts to those engaged in a more critical philosophy fifth to fourth century bc , concerned with the foundations of morality and knowledge. Because we still take these...

Ancient Athenian Democracy in General During the Fifth and Fourth Centuries bc

Because Athenian democracy inscribed its state documents on stone most regularly from c. 460 onwards and Athenians and non-Athenians who lived in Athens produced a great deal of literature in the fifth and fourth centuries, we have more information 4 On the extinction of democracy see G. E. M. de Ste Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient World London, 1981 , Appendix IV, and chapter 5, this volume. J. M. Bryant, Moral Codes and Social Structure in Ancient Greece a sociology of Greek ethics...

Canonical Difficulties

The writers listed above are traditionally considered to have contributed most influen-tially to political debate on the principles and practices of good government across the centuries, and therefore are taken to be the key figures in the history of European political thought. This may look like an uncontentious statement, but it is not. Just how we evaluate who contributed most and how we determine which authors and which of their works ought to be included on the list of 'great political...