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Popular Tyranny

Sovereignty and Its Discontents in Ancient Greece

Edited by Kathryn A. Morgan

Publication Year: 2003

The nature of authority and rulership was a central concern in ancient Greece, where the figure of the king or tyrant and the sovereignty associated with him remained a powerful focus of political and philosophical debate even as Classical Athens developed the world’s first democracy. This collection of essays examines the extraordinary role that the concept of tyranny played in the cultural and political imagination of Archaic and Classical Greece through the interdisciplinary perspectives provided by internationally known archaeologists, literary critics, and historians. The book ranges historically from the Bronze and early Iron Age to the political theorists and commentators of the middle of the fourth century B.C. and generically across tragedy, comedy, historiography, and philosophy. While offering individual and sometimes differing perspectives, the essays tackle several common themes: the construction of authority and of constitutional models, the importance of religion and ritual, the crucial role of wealth, and the autonomy of the individual. Moreover, the essays with an Athenian focus shed new light on the vexed question of whether it was possible for Athenians to think of themselves as tyrannical in any way. As a whole, the collection presents a nuanced survey of how competing ideologies and desires, operating through the complex associations of the image of tyranny, struggled for predominance in ancient cities and their citizens.

Published by: University of Texas Press

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pp. vii

This volume emerged from the conference ‘‘Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and Its Discontents in Classical Athens,’’ held at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the spring of 1998. First thanks, then, must go to the Department of Classics at UCLA, which provided the funding for the event. ...

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pp. ix-xxvii

The essays collected together here originated as a series of talks presented at the conference ‘‘Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and Its Discontents in Classical Athens.’’ This volume, therefore, possesses both the strengths and the weaknesses of collected conference papers. ...

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Imaginary Kings: Alternatives to Monarchy in Early Greece

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pp. 1-24

The function of my contribution to this volume is to set the scene for discussing images of Greek tyranny, by recalling the peculiar history of early Greece. Behind the confident picture of early Greek history rendered by Thucydides, or the selective narrative histories of Greek city-states in Herodotus, rests evidence based largely on archaeology, mythology, and a set of prehistoric texts (Linear B) difficult to fathom. ...

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Form and Content: The Question of Tyranny in Herodotus

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pp. 25-58

At the moment there does not seem to be much scholarly consensus on the Archaic Greek tyrants and what they meant to their cities’ political development.1 The tyrant as a moral monster and tyranny as the lowest form of government, autocracy unconstrained by law or custom, was a fourth-century construct. ...

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Stick and Glue: The Function of Tyranny in Fifth-Century Athenian Democracy

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pp. 59-93

‘‘Popular Tyranny’’ can mean either tyranny that is popular or tyranny by the populus, the people. Both aspects are relevant for my present investigation. I will argue for three points. First, in their capacity as citizens, Athenians in the second half of the fifth century were accustomed to thinking of tyranny in a very negative way, although privately many of them might have held different views and we know that elite circles disgruntled with democracy did so. ...

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Tragic Tyranny

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pp. 95-115

There has been some interest in comparing or combining the tyrant of Greek tragedy with the picture of the absolute autocrat to be found in historical and literary texts, notably the monarch described in Herodotus’ famous Persian debate on forms of government and the tyrant described by Plato in the Republic. But there is much still to be said. This is partly because the division of intellectual labor has meant that the interpreters...

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Dēmos Tyrannos: Wealth, Power, and Economic Patronage

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pp. 117-153

The party line in fifth-century B.C. Athens on tyrants and tyranny is not difficult to find. The image of the tyrant as antithetical to, indeed the polar opposite of, the free community in general, and democracy in Athens specifically, is ubiquitous. The tyrant as ideological Other pervaded the discourse and life of the democratic polis, as several of the essays in this volume make clear. ...

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Demos, Demagogue, Tyrant in Attic Old Comedy

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pp. 155-179

It is generally agreed that in imperial Athens, the people’s perception of tyranny was entirely negative and that their fear that tyranny still threatened the democracy was unrealistic. After all, the actual threat ended with the Persian invasions and the ostracisms of the 480s,1 and the perennial threat to democracy thereafter was not tyranny but oligarchy. ...

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The Tyranny of the Audience in Plato and Isocrates

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pp. 181-213

As other essays in this volume show, the Athenians found the figure of the tyrant compelling. As a democracy, Athens celebrated its resistance to tyranny, although it was also fascinated by the more questionable aspects of autocratic power. ...

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Tyrant Killing as Therapeutic Stasis: A Political Debate in Images and Texts

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pp. 215-250

My starting point is the evolving relationship between Athenian democratic ideology and the arguments developed by politically dissident Athenians, that is, those who were not willing to accept that democracy was the best of all political worlds or even the best that could reasonably be hoped for.1 I have argued elsewhere that democratic ideology, with its quasi-hegemonic tendencies, was challenged in texts produced by members of an informal yet self-consciously critical ‘‘community of interpretation.’’2 ...

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Changing the Discourse

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pp. 251-272

Fifth-century Athens, as the essays in this volume have clearly shown, had an ongoing obsession with tyranny. Ostracism was probably introduced, and certainly repeatedly used, in the first quarter of the century to remove from Athens those believed to be inclined to subvert the democratic constitution for their own personal political advantage. ...

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pp. 273-275

This collection of essays has explored the variety of ways in which tyranny was a ‘‘popular’’ concept. Much has been achieved. We have surveyed a historical development in what it meant to think tyranny and monarchy. ...


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pp. 277-303

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 305-307

General Index

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pp. 309-314

Index Locorum

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pp. 315-324

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797826
E-ISBN-10: 0292797826
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292752764
Print-ISBN-10: 0292752768

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 15 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2003