Athens on Trial by Jennifer Tolbert Roberts

By Jennifer Tolbert Roberts

This wonderful paintings recounts the historical past of perspectives on Athens and democracy over background, with a reminder of simply how lately our reliable opinion of democracy, and accordingly of Athens, resurfaces as a facet of modernism. this alteration taking place through the upward thrust of the trendy, and never quite whole til the 19th century,at most sensible, is a global old swap of paradigm that reversed the crypto-Platonic authoritarianism of the lengthy millennia after the waning of the good Classical flowering within the onset of the Hellenistic. This recovery calls for shut research of the nonetheless ambivalent perspectives even of lots of our nice early glossy thinkers, and is obvious in Rousseau's preoccupation with the Spartans. This paintings highlights a vital knowing required to appreciate not just the Greeks however the upward push of contemporary democracy.

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Under this democratic regime Athens acquired a far-flung empire and produced one of the more memorable bursts of artistic activity the world has ever seen. C. that the free inhabitants of Attica joined together as citizens of the predominant Attic polis of Athens; Greek tradition ascribed this unification to their king Theseus, a friend of Heracles (Hercules) and the slayer of the monstrous Minotaur. Some time afterward the Athenians abolished the kingship and replaced the king with three archons who served life terms.

It can be argued just as convincingly that it was the misconduct of Athens’s aristocrats that led to the loss of the war—the timidity of Nicias, the vacillations of Alcibiades, and the treachery of the men who evidently betrayed the fleet in the battle off Aegospotami that ended the war. The aristocratic tradition—the same one that regards the corn dole at Rome as the beginning of the end— seeks to ground the final collapse of Athens in 338 in the rise of the so-called demagogues, and to the eventual separation, allegedly pernicious, of military from civilian power—and this despite the fact that thinkers writing in this tradition have themselves been loyal citizens of states that have taken such a separation to be axiomatic.

The egalitarianism of the Athenian ethos extended only to free citizen males. Women and slaves had carefully circumscribed rights and played a part in public life primarily by facilitating the leisure of free males, and it was only under extraordinary circumstances that resident aliens might become Athenian citizens. 12 Pericles himself attracted considerable attention by divorcing his Athenian wife and setting up housekeeping with a cultivated foreign woman, Aspasia, who welcomed celebrated intellectuals into their home.

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