The Athenian Revolution: Essays on Ancient Greek Democracy and Political Theory

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Princeton University Press, 1996 - History - 212 pages
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Where did "democracy" come from, and what was its original form and meaning? Here Josiah Ober shows that this "power of the people" crystallized in a revolutionary uprising by the ordinary citizens of Athens in 508-507 B.C. He then examines the consequences of the development of direct democracy for upper-and lower-class citizens, for dissident Athenian intellectuals, and for those who were denied citizenship under the new regime (women, slaves, resident foreigners), as well as for the general development of Greek history.

When the citizens suddenly took power into their own hands, they changed the cultural and social landscape of Greece, thereby helping to inaugurate the Classical Era. Democracy led to fundamental adjustments in the basic structures of Athenian society, altered the forms and direction of political thinking, and sparked a series of dramatic reorientations in international relations. It quickly made Athens into the most powerful Greek city-state, but it also fatally undermined the traditional Greek rules of warfare. It stimulated the development of the Western tradition of political theorizing and encouraged a new conception of justice that has striking parallels to contemporary theories of rights. But Athenians never embraced the notions of inherency and inalienability that have placed the concept of rights at the center of modern political thought. Thus the play of power that constituted life in democratic Athens is revealed as at once strangely familiar and desperately foreign, and the values sustaining the Athenian political community as simultaneously admirable and terrifying.

  

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Contents

Acknowledgments ix
3
CHAPTER
13
CHAPTER 4
32
CHAPTER 5
53
CHAPTER 6
72
Demosthenes
86
CHAPTER 8
107
CHAPTER 9
123
How to Criticize Democracy in Late Fifth
140
CHAPTER 11
146
Aristotle John Rawls and the Athenian
161
Bibliography
189
Index
205
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Josiah Ober is Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he holds joint appointments in the departments of political science and classics. He is the author of several books on classical Athenian political and intellectual history, most recently Political Dissent in Democratic Athens. He is now working on a project about the relationship between democratic political culture and the social circulation of knowledge.

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