By Jennifer Tolbert Roberts
This glorious paintings recounts the historical past of perspectives on Athens and democracy over heritage, with a reminder of simply how lately our stable opinion of democracy, and for that reason of Athens, resurfaces as a side of modernism. this variation taking place in the course of the upward push of the fashionable, and never quite whole til the 19th century,at most sensible, is an international historic 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 examine of the nonetheless ambivalent perspectives even of lots of our nice early smooth thinkers, and is visible in Rousseau's preoccupation with the Spartans. This paintings highlights a vital realizing required to appreciate not just the Greeks however the upward thrust of contemporary democracy.
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Extra info for Athens on Trial
What Grote saw as the hallmark of the Athenian state was the ability of its citizens meeting in assembly to transcend and override precisely the sorts of particularist interests that he believed stood in the way of social and political progress in Britain. Exalting Athenian democracy as the safeguard not only of liberty but, more surprisingly, of stability as well, Grote called into question such time-honored features of classical historiography as the glorification of Sparta, the contempt for the sophists, and the ridicule of the Athenian demagogues.
The claim that rich men were excluded from power in Athens and financially exploited by the lower classes rests on weak evidence, as does the conviction that rich people make better citizens than poor people. So does the allegation that the loss of the Peloponnesian War should be ascribed to the INTRODUCTION 15 Athenians’ democratic form of government and the insistence that the politicians who succeeded Pericles lacked public spirit. Facile distinctions between ochlocracy and democracy, between demagogue and statesman, have informed the study of Athenian history, and historians have on the whole showed little sensitivity to the class bias of those Greeks who had the leisure to write about politics.
Because of this stunning failure, many Western thinkers have viewed the fourth century as a protracted period of decline that led inevitably to the collapse of the city-state system, both throughout Greece in general and in Athens in particular.