Democracy : a life by Paul Cartledge

By Paul Cartledge

"Ancient Greece first coined the concept that of "democracy," but virtually each significant historical Greek thinker--from Plato and Aristotle onwards--were ambivalent or maybe adverse to democracy in any shape. the reason is sort of easy: the elite perceived majority energy as tantamount to a dictatorship of the proletariat. In historical Greece there will be traced not just the rudiments of recent democratic society however the entire

"Democracy: A lifestyles holds out 3 special examine goals: a formal figuring out of the origins and diversity of old Greek democracies; an in depth account of the destiny of democracy - either the establishment and the observe - within the historical Greek and Roman worlds from the 5th century BCE to the sixth century CE; and a nuanced exploration of the ways that all historic Greek democracies differed from all smooth so-called 'democracies'"-- Read more...

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The 2,500 12 months tale of democracy, from historical Greece to the twenty-first century Read more...

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Of these, one has a special place in any history of ancient Greek democracy: the tract that is usually referred to as the ‘Politics’. Here, however, lies another trap for the unwary. ‘Politics’ is the conventional English translation of Greek politika, which may or may not have been the title that Aristotle himself gave to a treatise essentially worked up by his students from lecture notes. Whether he did give it that title or not, what he would have meant by it is not what we understand by politics but ‘matters concerning the polis’; and by ‘polis’ he would have understood not any political entity or state-╉form in general but one very specific state-╉form in particular, the polis of the ancient Greeks.

The second oath text on the stele is much more curious and potentially even more revealing. It purports to record the very words of the oath sworn in 479 by Athenians (and presumably other loyalist Greeks united in alliance against the Persian invaders) immediately before the decisive land battle of Plataea—╉that is, some six generations ago. The Athenians had a special connection to Plataea, since they had been allied with the Plataeans since 519, and the Plataeans alone had stood shoulder to shoulder with them at Marathon in 490.

Nor is even the most professional, dry-╉as-╉dust contemporary historiography entirely devoid of fiction, since all history, as the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce wrote, is contemporary history—╉in the profound sense that the historian is herself or himself a victim of contemporary pressures, and is writing or composing for a contemporary audience in terms that must make some sense to that imagined readership. Historians, in other words, make it up: they make history by re╉constructing the past or rather a past, their version of the past, in and for the present (and, it is hoped, the future).

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