Courage in the Democratic Polis: Ideology and Critique in Classical Athens

Courage in the Democratic Polis: Ideology and Critique in Classical Athens


By (author) Ryan K. Balot

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 424 pages
  • Dimensions: 164mm x 236mm x 32mm | 760g
  • Publication date: 3 April 2014
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199982155
  • ISBN 13: 9780199982158
  • Sales rank: 495,349

Product description

In this careful and compelling study, Ryan K. Balot brings together political theory, classical history, and ancient philosophy in order to re-conceive of courage as a specifically democratic virtue. Ranging from Thucydides and Aristophanes to the Greek tragedians and Plato, Balot shows that the ancient Athenians constructed a novel vision of courage that linked this virtue to fundamental democratic ideals such as freedom, equality, and practical rationality. The Athenian ideology of courage had practical implications for the conduct of war, for gender relations, and for the citizens' self-image as democrats. In revising traditional ideals, Balot argues, the Athenians reimagined the emotional and cognitive motivations for courage in ways that will unsettle and transform our contemporary discourses. Without losing sight of political tensions and practical conflicts, Balot illustrates the merits of the Athenian ideal, provocatively explaining its potential to enlarge our contemporary understandings of politics and ethics. The result is a remarkably interdisciplinary work that has significant implications for the theory and practice of democracy, both ancient and modern.

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Author information

Ryan K. Balot is Professor of Political Science and Classics at the University of Toronto. He is the author or editor of three volumes.

Review quote

"As a classicist and political scientist, Ryan Balot offers a thorough and probing analysis of how democratic Athenians conceptualized courage and how elite critics of the democracy responded to them. Balot draws on a wide range of ancient sources, including oratory, tragedy, comedy, history, and philosophy, as he presents his case, and offers many insightful readings of individual works and authors along the way. This book contributes substantially to our understanding of courage not only in democratic Athens but also in the modern world." --Matthew Christ, Indiana University"Courage in the Democratic Polis is a remarkably wide-ranging exploration of Greek democratic and anti-democratic thinking about the meaning and value of courage for the individual citizen and the political community. Balot argues forcefully that the 'eudaimonism' systematically explored by Plato and Aristotle was implicit in democratic discourse and can be detected in Thucydides, orators, and dramatists. He also argues that a democratic interpretation of the virtue of courage still commends itself to us today. This is a thoroughly readable work of deep scholarship and nuanced reflection." --Richard Kraut, Northwestern University"Ryan Balot's work contributes greatly to deepen our understanding of the working, thinking, and values of Athenian democracy. He investigates a particularly contested issue, the meaning of courage for the democratic polis. His nuanced and penetrating analysis, based on impeccable familiarity with sources, theories, and ancient as well as modern debates, offers a fascinating picture. It illuminates how the most radically democratic society in antiquity grappled with ideals, ambiguities, contradictions between ideology and reality, and its own limitations. More than most books on the ancient world, this one inspires us to read about the past and think about ourselves." --Kurt Raaflaub, Brown University"This is a grand and original achievement. By

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: A Theory of Democratic Courage ; Part I: The Periclean Ideology and Its Critics ; Chapter 2 The Periclean Model ; Chapter 3 Free Speech, Democratic Deliberation, and Courage ; Chapter 4 Writing Courage into Democratic History: Aeschylean and Herodotean Perspectives ; Chapter 5 New Faces of Athenian Courage: The Pursuit of Imperialism ; Chapter 6 Democratic Courage and the Platonic Laches ; Chapter 7 Isocratean Reflections: Athens' Courage, Imperialism, and Eudaimonism ; Part II: Equality, Emotion, and Civic Education ; Chapter 8 Courage, Equality, and Military Recognition in Democratic Athens ; Chapter 9 Revisiting the