Summary and Info
The classical Athenians were the first to articulate and implement the notion that ordinary citizens of no particular affluence or education could make responsible political decisions. For this reason, reactions to Athenian democracy have long provided a prime testing ground for political thought. Whether praising Athens's government as the legitimate ancestor of modern democracies or condemning it as mob rule, commentators throughout history have revealed much about their own notions of politics and society. This study charts responses to Athenian democracy from the ancient world to the 20th century, exploring a debate that touches upon historiography, ethics, political science, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender studies and educational theory. Rooted in the bias of Greek intellectuals, the text argues, hostility to Athenian democracy gained strength from the propensity of Western thinkers to read history backward and infer the impotence of Athens's form of government from the Athenians' ultimate defeat by Macedon in 338 BC. In time, dislike of Athenian government developed into a powerful intellectual construct that stood largely unchallenged until the early 19th century. In the epilogue, the author examines the controversies that continue to surround Athens in the present day.
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