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Aristocratic Views and Class Biases Political Dissent in Classical Athens.

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Presentation on theme: "Aristocratic Views and Class Biases Political Dissent in Classical Athens."— Presentation transcript:

1 Aristocratic Views and Class Biases Political Dissent in Classical Athens

2 Eternal Democratic Questions?  Is It Of The People and By the People, Or Not?  Liberty vs. Equality?  What Does It Mean for the “People” to Rule?  Who Are the “People”?

3 Typologies and Realities Another Look at Democracy In Fifth-Century Athens

4 Athenian Democracy Equality Trumps Liberty?  Ostracism  Lot and Election  Public Liturgies and Antidosis  Jury Courts

5 Public Liturgies and Antidosis  Trierarchy (maintain a ship for a year)  Choregeia (finance public performance)  Antidosis

6 Pericles as Case Study Identifying the Locus of Power In Fifth-Century Athens

7 Pericles and Athenian Democracy  Pericles’ Vulnerability Avoidance of Assembly (Thucydides, 2.22) Prosecution of Close Friends (Plutarch, Pericles, 35) Fine and Deposition from Board of 10 Generals (Plutarch, Pericles, 35)  Pericles’ Reputation in Classical Antiquity Pausanias, (Thrasybulus as greatest Athenian) Plutarch, Life of Numa, 8 (Alcibiades) Pliny the Elder, Natural History, (Themistocles)

8 Pericles’ Avoidance of Assembly Thucydides, Histories, 2.22 “Pericles was convinced of the rightness of his own views about not going out to battle, but he saw that for the moment the Athenians were being led astray by their angry feelings. So he summoned no assembly or special meeting of the people, fearing that any general discussion would result in wrong decisions, made under the influence of anger rather than of reason.”

9 Pericles’ Fine and Deposition Plutarch, Life of Pericles, 35 “The Athenians being exasperated against him on this account, he tried to appease and encourage them. He did not, however, succeed in allaying their anger, nor yet changing their purposes, before they got their hostile ballots into their hands, became masters of his fate, and stripped him of his command, and punished him with a fine. The amount of this was fifteen talents, according to those who give the lowest, and fifty, according to those who give the highest figure.”

10 Aristocratic Hostility Thucydides, Plato, “Old Oligarch”

11 Aristocratic Background of Thucydides  Son of Olorus (Histories, ), the name of Cimon’s Thracian grandfather; Thucydides’ tomb in Cimon’s family vault  Blood relation to Cimon, and probably to Thucydides the son of Melesias, conservative opponent of Pericles  Strategos in 424 BCE  May have died in Thrace, where his family possessed mines (Histories, )

12 Intellectual Background of Thucydides  Education in Rhetoric and Philosophy  Knowledge of Medical Writers  Ardent Convert to Pericles and Periclean Policies  Anti-Banausic Prejudices of the Greek Aristocratic Classes

13 Bust of Plato

14 Aristocratic Background of Plato  Distinguished Aristocratic Lineage on Both Paternal and Maternal Sides  Trial and Death of Mentor Socrates in 399 BCE  Plato Leaves Athens for Megara; Travels over the Next 12 Years

15 Intellectual Background of Plato  Education in Rhetoric and Philosophy  Anti-Banausic Prejudices of the Greek Aristocratic Classes  Seventh Letter and the Folly of Contemporary Athenian Democratic Politics

16 Ancient Greek Statements on Athenian Democracy “Old Oligarch,” Plato, Thucydides

17 “Old Oligarch” (sections 4-5) “Then there is a point which some find extraordinary, that they everywhere assign more to the worst persons, to the poor, and to the popular types than to the good men: in this very point they will be found manifestly preserving their democracy. For the poor, the popular, and the base, inasmuch as they are well off and the likes of them are numerous, will increase the democracy; but if the wealthy, good men are well off, the men of the people create a strong opposition to themselves. And everywhere on earth the best element is opposed to democracy. For among the best people there is minimal wantonness and injustice but a maximum of scrupulous care for what is good, whereas among the people there is a maximum of ignorance, disorder, and wickedness; for poverty draws them rather to disgraceful actions, and because of a lack of money some men are uneducated and ignorant.”

18 “Old Oligarch” (sections 6-8) “Someone might say that they ought not to let everyone speak on equal terms and serve on the council, but rather just the cleverest and finest. Yet their policy is also excellent in this very point of allowing even the worst people to speak. For if the good men were to speak and make policy, it would be splendid for the likes of themselves but not so for the men of the people. But, as things are, any wretch who wants to can stand up and obtain what is good for him and the likes of himself.”

19 Plato, Republic, 493a-c; cf. Laws, 951b-c “Not one of those paid private teachers, whom the people call Sophists teaches anything other than the convictions that the majority express when they are gathered together. It’s as if someone were learning the moods and appetites of a huge, strong beast that he’s rearing-how to approach and handle it, when it is most difficult to deal with or most gentle and what makes it so, what sounds it utters in either condition, and what sounds soothe or anger it….he knows nothing about which of these convictions is fine or shameful, good or bad, just or unjust, but he applies all these names in accordance with how the beast reacts- calling what it enjoys good and what angers it bad.”

20 Plato, Republic, 558c “These and qualities akin to these democracy would exhibit, and it would, it seems, be a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”

21 Thucydides, (Alcibiades in Sparta in 415 BCE ) “As for democracy, those of us with any sense at all knew what it meant, and I just as much as any. Indeed, I am well equipped to make an attack on it; but nothing new can be said of a system which is generally recognized as absurd.”

22 Discussion  What do you make of our discussions this week of democratic typologies and historical realities in democratic Athens?  What are the interrelationships in fifth-century Athens between empire and democracy? Are we justified in calling Athens an imperial democracy?  How do you account for the hostility of Athenian writers against Athenian democracy?


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