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Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece

Kurt A. Raaflaub

Publication Year: 2007

This book presents a state-of-the-art debate about the origins of Athenian democracy by five eminent scholars. The result is a stimulating, critical exploration and interpretation of the extant evidence on this intriguing and important topic. The authors address such questions as: Why was democracy first realized in ancient Greece? Was democracy "invented" or did it evolve over a long period of time? What were the conditions for democracy, the social and political foundations that made this development possible? And what factors turned the possibility of democracy into necessity and reality? The authors first examine the conditions in early Greek society that encouraged equality and "people’s power." They then scrutinize, in their social and political contexts, three crucial points in the evolution of democracy: the reforms connected with the names of Solon, Cleisthenes, and Ephialtes in the early and late sixth and mid-fifth century. Finally, an ancient historian and a political scientist review the arguments presented in the previous chapters and add their own perspectives, asking what lessons we can draw today from the ancient democratic experience. Designed for a general readership as well as students and scholars, the book intends to provoke discussion by presenting side by side the evidence and arguments that support various explanations of the origins of democracy, thus enabling readers to join in the debate and draw their own conclusions.

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. v-9

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pp. vii-viii

Paul Cartledge received his DPhil from Oxford in 1975. He is currently Professor of Greek History in the Faculty of Classics and Professorial Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge. His main interests are Greek social,political, and cultural history, Sparta’s history through the ages, and the continuing ...


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-15

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-21

Over the past thirty years or so, work on Athenian democracy has intensiWed and yielded most impressive results. The development and functioning of democratic institutions and of the democratic system as a whole, as well as individual aspects, such as the roles of the elite, leaders, and the masses, and democratic terminology, have been analyzed and reconstructed in detail. The sources relevant to the...

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2 “People’s Power” and Egalitarian Trends in Archaic Greece

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pp. 22-48

Democracy is constituted through institutions, practices, mentalities, and, eventually, ideologies. In Greece these different components of democracy reached their fullest development in the Wfth and fourth centuries. If democracy means that all citizens, the entire demos, determine policies and exercise control through assembly, council, and courts, and that political leaders, attempting to shape...

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3 Revolutions and a New Order in Solonian Athens and Archaic Greece

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pp. 49-82

This chapter discusses the history of political and legal reform, mass revolution, and the reports of various people’s governments in Greece during the archaic period. Its greater focus on Athens is dictated by the state of our evidence, meager in any case but more extensive for that city, and by Athens’ importance in the history of democracy. At the same time, many scattered references in Aristotle’s...

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4 “I Besieged That Man”: Democracy's Revolutionary Start

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pp. 83-104

In searching for the “origins of Athenian democracy” I have avoided the individualist, institutionalist, and foundationalist premises undergirding much historical work on Athenian political history.1 My approach to the history of Athenian democracy cares relatively little for the motivations of Cleisthenes or (e.g.) Solon, Ephialtes, Pericles, or Demosthenes, since I do not think that democracy was “discovered” or “invented” by an individual. Rather I suppose that these (and...

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5 The Breakthrough of Demokratia in Mid-Fifth-Century Athens

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pp. 105-154

In the years around 462 b.c.e., Athens was rocked by political turmoil. Members of the venerable Areopagus council were brought to trial, as was Cimon, after Aristides architect of the Athenian empire and long-dominant general and leader. Some politicians, led by Ephialtes, persuaded the assembly to pass measures, often called the reforms of Ephialtes, that shifted certain powers from the Areopagus...

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6 Democracy, Origins of: Contribution to a Debate

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pp. 155-169

“The study of the Athenian political order is today one of the most exciting and active areas of ancient Greek history.” So wrote Josh Ober Wfteen years ago, reviewing Raphael Sealey’s typically revisionist and iconoclastic Athenian Republic: Democracy or the Rule of Law? 1 In 1994 Lisa Kallet (-Marx), reviewing a number of the many works prompted by the notional 2,500th anniversary of the reforms...

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7 Power to the People

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pp. 170-196

Why think that the “first democracy” has anything to tell us about our own? That was then and this is now; surely modern democracy has diverged from its ancient counterpart, and deliberately and rightly so?1 As it happens, however, among people who spend their time pondering such matters, dissatisfaction with modern democracy quite often takes the form of what one wit has dubbed “polis envy.”2 We...


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pp. 197-224


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pp. 225-232


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pp. 233-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780520932173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520245624

Page Count: 253
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 80171682
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece

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Subject Headings

  • Democracy -- Greece -- History -- To 1500.
  • Greece -- Politics and government -- To 146 B.C.
  • Democracy -- Greece -- Athens -- History -- To 1500.
  • Athens (Greece) -- Politics and government.
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