By Jennifer Tolbert Roberts
The classical Athenians have been the 1st to articulate and enforce the proposal that normal voters of no specific affluence or schooling can make in charge political judgements. hence, reactions to Athenian democracy have lengthy supplied a chief checking out flooring for political concept. even if praising Athens's executive because the valid ancestor of recent democracies or condemning it as mob rule, commentators all through historical past have printed a lot approximately their very own notions of politics and society. This examine charts responses to Athenian democracy from the traditional international to the 20 th century, exploring a debate that touches upon historiography, ethics, political technology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender stories 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 kind of executive from the Athenians' final defeat via Macedon in 338 BC. In time, dislike of Athenian executive constructed right into a robust highbrow build that stood principally unchallenged until eventually the early nineteenth century. within the epilogue, the writer examines the controversies that proceed to enclose Athens at present.
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Additional resources for Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought
17 This belief hardly encouraged any open-minded examination of how the Athenians achieved what they did, and when praise of Athens was put forward by the minority who always rise above tradition, it generally fell on deaf ears. The lengthy defense of democratic ideology contained in Aelius Aristides’ oration attacking Plato’s Gorgias was greeted by a conspiracy of silence even on the part of those who cited the sentimental paean to Athens in Aristides’ Panathenaic Oration, and the same American revolutionaries who fell so eagerly upon the Whiggish republican ideals expressed in Cato’s Letters 16 INTRODUCTION showed no interest in the defense of Athenian accountability expressed there.
19 The philosopher and educator John Dewey, he reminds us, insisted that “all history is necessarily written from the standpoint of the present, and is, in an inescapable sense, the history . . ” Approximate contemporaries, Dewey and Butterﬁeld stand at opposite poles in their view of what history is for, but historians seeking guidance in the day-to-day practice of their craft will recognize instantly that both men are right. Therein lies a tale, and it is the fraction of this tale that touches on classical Athens that I wish to tell.
These judgments are sometimes evident 18 INTRODUCTION in nonnarrative formats, as when Plato snipes at democracy in the Republic or when Machiavelli cites Athenian exempla in the Discourses. But they can be extracted from narrative as well, and in fact thinkers whose suppositions are very different from those of Hayden White or Louis Mink have been making just such extractions—though generally at an unconscious level—from narratives about Athens, beginning with Thucydides’ “story” of how Athens declined after Pericles’ death and lost the Peloponnesian War and continuing with subsequent “stories” about the decay of the fourth century and the failure to guard against the Macedonian takeover.