The Athenian Revolution

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

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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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 154.94 x 226.06 x 17.78mm | 226.8g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0691001901
  • 9780691001906
  • 1,271,087

Review quote

"The Athenian Revolution is a welcome collection... Interesting and witty introductions place the articles in personal and scholarly context."--Peter Krentz, Religious Studies Review "[Ober] has succeeded in writing a book that both political theorists and ancient historians will find always provocative and often persuasive. Highly recommended."--Choice "By confronting critically an alien way of thinking and doing and speaking about politics that is nevertheless also the fountainhead of our own Western political tradition, Ober provides a wide range of readers with a truly unsettling and therefore properly educational experience."--Paul Cartledge, New England Classical Journalshow more

Back cover copy

"This book brings together some of Ober's most important essays of the last decade. . . . Anyone who cares about democracy, ancient or modern, should read this book."--Ian Morris, Stanford University "By confronting critically an alien way of thinking, doing, and speaking politics that is nevertheless also the fountainhead of our own Western political tradition, Ober provides a wide range of readers with a truly unsettling and therefore properly educational experience."--P. A. Cartledge, University of Cambridgeshow more

Table of contents

AcknowledgmentsCh. 1Introduction: Athenian Democracy and the History of Ideologies3Ch. 2Models and Paradigms in Ancient History13Ch. 3Public Speech and the Power of the People in Democratic Athens18Ch. 4The Athenian Revolution of 508/7 B.C.: Violence, Authority, and the Origins of Democracy32Ch. 5The Rules of War in Classical Greece53Ch. 6Thucydides, Pericles, and the Strategy of Defense72Ch. 7Power and Oratory in Democratic Athens: Demosthenes 21, Against Meidias86Ch. 8The Nature of Athenian Democracy107Ch. 9The Athenians and Their Democracy123Ch. 10How to Criticize Democracy in Late Fifth- and Fourth-Century Athens140Ch. 11The Polis as a Society: Aristotle, John Rawls, and the Athenian Social Contract161Bibliography189Index205show more