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Athenian Demagogues

Author(s): M. I. Finley
Source: Past and Present, No. 21, (Apr., 1962), pp. 3-24
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/649993
Accessed: 19/06/2008 20:02

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Athenians, they received it with disbelief. Then came the realization
of the full scale of the disaster, and the people, writes Thucydides,
"were indignant with the orators who had joined in promoting the
expedition, as if they [the people] had not themselves decreed it
[in assembly]".2 To this George Grote made the following
reolnc Wer:
From these latter words, it would seem that Thucydides considered the
Athenians, after having adopted the expedition by their votes, to have
debarredthemselves from the right of complaining of those speakers who
had stood forwardprominentlyto advise the step. I do not at all concur in
his opinion. The adviser of any important measure always makes himself
morallyresponsiblefor its justice, usefulness, and practicability;and he very
properlyincllrs disgrace,more or less accordingto the case, if it turns out to
present results totally contraryto those which he had predicted.3
These two opposing quotations raise all the fundamental problems
inherent in the Athenian democracy, the problems of policy-making
and leadership, of decisions and the responsibility for them.
Unfortunately Thucydides tells us very little about the orators who
successfully urged on the Assembly the decision to mount the great
invasion of Sicily. In fact, he tells us nothing concrete about the
meeting, other than that the people were given misinformation by a
delegation from the Sicilian city of Segesta and by their own envoys
just returned from Sicily, and that most of those who voted were so
ignorant of the relevant facts that they did not even know the size of
the island or of its population. Five days later a second Assembly
was held to authorize the necessary armament. The general Nicias
took the opportunity to seek a reversalof the whole programme. He
was opposed by a number of speakers, Athenian and Sicilian, neither
named by the historian nor described in any way, and by Alcibiades,
who is given a speech which throws much light on Thucydides
himself and on his judgment of Alcibiades, but scarcely any on the
issues, whether the immediate ones being debated or the broader
ones of democratic procedure and leadership. The result was a
complete defeat for Nicias. Everyone, Thucydides admits, was
now more eager than before to go ahead with the plan the old and
the young, the hoplite soldiers (who were drawn from the wealthier
half of the citizenry) and the common people alike. The few who
remained opposed, he concludesn refrained from voting lest they
appeared unpatriotic.4

The wisdom of the Sicilian expedition is a very difficult matter.

Thucydides himself had more than one view at different times in his
life. However, he seems not to have changed his mind about the
orators: they promoted the expedition for the wrong reasons and
they gained the day by playing on the ignorance and emotions of the
Assembly. Alcibiades, he says, pressed hardest of all, because he
wished to thwart Nicias, because he was personally ambitious and
hoped to gain fame and wealth from his generalshipin the campaign,
and because his extravagantand licentious tastes were more expensive
than he could really afford. Elsewhere, writing in more general
terms, Thucydides says this:
[Under Pericles] the government was a democracyin name but in reality
rule by the first citizen. His successorswere more equal to each other, and
each seeking to become the first man they even offeredthe conduct of affairs
to the whims of the people. This, as was to be expected in a great state
ruling an empire, produced many blunders.5
In short, after the death of Pericles Athens fell into the hands of
demagogues and was ruined. Thucydides does not use the word
"demagogue" in any of the passages I have been discussing. It is
an uncommon word with him,6 as it is in Greek literature generally,
and that fact may come as a surprise, for there is no more familiar
theme in the Athenian picture (despite the rarity of the word) than
the demagogue and his adjutant, the sycophant. The demagogue
is a bad thing: to "lead the people" is to mislead above all, to
mislead by failing to lead. The demagogueis driven by self-interest,
by the desire to advance himself in power, and through power, in
wealth. To achieve this, he surrenders all principles, all genuine
leadership, and he panders to the people in every way - in
Thucydides' words, "even offeringthe conduct of affairsto the whims
of the people". This picture is drawn not only directly, but also in
reverse. Here, for example, is Thucydides' image of the right kind
of leader:
Becauseof his prestige, intelligence,and known incorruptibilitywith respect
to money, Pericles was able to lead the people as a free man should. He
led them instead of being led by them. He did not have to humour them
in the pursuit of power; on the contrary,his repute was such that he could
contradictthem and provoke their anger.7
This was not everyone's judgment. Aristotle puts the breakdown
earlier: it was after Ephialtes took away the power of the Council of
the Areopagus that the passion for demagogy set in. Pericles, he
continues, first acquired political influence by prosecuting Cimon
for malfeasancein office; he energetically pursued a policy of naval
power, "which gave the lower classes the audacity to take over the
leadership in politics more and more"; and he introduced pay for

juryservice,thus bribingthe peoplewith their own money. These

weredemagogicpracticesandthey broughtPericlesto power,which,
Aristotleagrees,he then used well and properly.8
But my interestis neitherin evaluatingPericlesas an individual
nor in examining the lexicographyof demagogy. The Greek
politicalvocabularywas normallyvague and imprecise,apartfrom
formaltitles for individualofficesor bodies (and often enoughnot
even then). The word demoswas itself ambiguous;among its
meanings,however,was one whichcameto dominateliteraryusage,
namely"the commonpeople", "the lower classes",and that sense
providedthe overtonesin "demagogues" they becameleadersof
the state thanksto the backingof the commonpeople. All writers
acceptedthe need for politicalleadershipas axiomatic;theirproblem
was to distinguishbetweengood and bad types. With respectto
Athens and its democracy,the word "demagogue"understandably
becamethe simplestway of identifyingthe bad type, and it does not
matterin the leastwhetherthe wordappearsin anygiventext or not.
I suppose it was Aristophaneswho establishedthe model in his
portrayal of Cleon, yet he never directly applied the noun
"demagogue" to him or anyoneelse;9similarlywithThucydides,who
surelythoughtthat Cleophon,Hyperbolus,and some, if not all, of
the oratorsresponsiblefor the Siciliandisasterweredemagogues,but
who neverattachedthe wordto any of these men.
It is importantto stressthe word "type",for the issue raisedby
Greek writers is one of the essentialqualities of the leader, not
(except very secondarily)his techniquesor technicalcompetence,
not even (except in a very generalizedway) his programmeand
policies. The crucial distinctionis between the man who gives
leadershipwith nothingelse in mind but the good of the state, and
the man whose self-interestmakeshis own positionparamountand
urgeshim to panderto the people. The formermaymakea mistake
and adoptthe wrongpolicyin any given situation;the lattermay at
times makesoundproposals,as when Alcibiadesdissuadedthe fleet
at Samos from jeopardizingthe naval positionby rushingback to
Athensin 4II B.C. to overthrowthe oligarchswho had seizedpower
there,an actionto which Thucydidesgave explicitapproval.l? But
these are not fundamentaldistinctions. Nor are other traits
attributedto individualdemagogues:Cleon'shabitof shoutingwhen
addressingthe Assembly,personaldishonestyin moneymatters,and
so on. Suchthingsmerelysharpenthe picture. FromAristophanes
to Aristotle,the attackon the demagoguesalwaysfalls backon the
one centralquestion:in whoseinterestdoes the leaderlead?

Behind this formulationof the questionlay three propositions.

The first is that men are unequal- both in their moralworthand
capabilityand in their social and economicstatus. The secondis
that any community tends to divide into factions, the most
fundamentalof which are the rich and well-bornon one side, the
poor on the other, each with its own qualities,potentialities,and
interests. The third proposition is that the well-orderedand
well-run state is one which over-ridesfaction and serves as an
instrumentalityfor the good life.
Faction is the greatest evil and the most common danger.
"Faction"is a conventionalEnglishtranslationof the Greekstasis,
one of the most remarkable wordsto be foundin any language. Its
root-sense is "placing", "setting" or "stature", "station". Its
rangeof politicalmeaningscanbest be illustratedby merelystringing
out the definitionsto be found in the lexicon: "party", "party
formed for seditious purposes","faction","sedition","discord",
"division","dissent",and, finally, a well-attestedmeaningwhich
the lexicon incomprehensiblyomits, namely, "civil war" or
"revolution". Unlike "demagogue",stasisis a very commonword
in the literature,and its connotationis regularlypejorative. Oddly
enough, it is also the most neglectedconceptin modernstudy of
Greekhistory. It has not been observedoften enoughor sharply
enough, I believe,that there must be deep significancein the fact
that a wordwhichhas the originalsense of "station"or "position",
andwhich,in abstractlogic,couldhavean equallyneutralsensewhen
used in a politicalcontext,in practicedoes nothingof the kind, but
immediatelytakeson the nastiestovertones. A politicalposition,a
partisanposition that is the inescapableimplication is a bad
thing, leadingto sedition,civil war, and the disruptionof the social
fabric.11 And this same tendency is repeated throughout the
language. There is no eternallaw, after all, why "demagogue",a
"leaderof the people", must become "mis-leaderof the people".
Or why hetairia,an old Greek word which meant, among other
things,"club"or "society",shouldin fifth-centuryAthenshavecome
simultaneouslyto mean "conspiracy","seditious organization".
Whateverthe explanation,it lies not in philology but in Greek
No one who has readthe Greekpoliticalwriterscan havefailedto
notice the unanimityof approachin this respect. Whateverthe
disagreementsamongthem, they all insist that the state must stand
outsideclassor otherfactionalinterests. Its aimsand objectivesare
moral ones, timeless and universal,and they can be achieved

more correctly,approachedor approximated only by education,

moralconduct(especiallyon the partof those in authority),morally
correct legislation,and the choice of the right governors. The
existenceof classesand interestsas an empiricalfact is, of course,
not denied. Whatis deniedis that the choiceof politicalgoalscan
legitimatelybe linked with these classesand interests,or that the
good of the state can be advancedexcept by ignoring (if not
It wasPlato,of course,who pursuedthis line of its reasoningto its
most radicalsolutions. In the Gorgiashe had arguedthat not even
the great Athenian political figures of the past Miltiades,
Themistocles,Cimon and Pericles were true statesmen. They
hadmerelybeenmoreaccomplished thantheirsuccessorsin gratifying
the desiresof the demoswith ships and wallsand dockyards. They
had failed to make the citizens better men, and to call them
"statesmen"was therefore to confuse the pastrycookwith the
doctor.l2 Then, in the Republic,Plato proposedto concentrateall
power in the handsof a small,select, appropriately educatedclass,
who were to be freed from all specialinterestsby the most radical
measures,by the abolitioninsofaras they were concernedof both
private property and the family. Only under those conditions
would they behaveas perfectmoralagents,leadingthe state to its
proper goals without the possibility that any self-interestmight
intrude. Plato, to be sure, was the most untypicalof men. One
does not safelygeneralizefromPlato;not only not to all Greeks,but
not even to any othersingle Greek. Who else sharedhis passionate
convictionthat qualifiedexperts-philosophers couldmake(and
should thereforebe empoweredto enforce)universallycorrectand
authoritativedecisionsaboutthe good life, the life of virtue,which
was the sole end of the state?13 Yet on the one point with which I
am immediatelyconcerned- privateinterestsandthe state- Plato
stood on commongroundwith many Greekwriters(much as they
disagreedwith him on the answers). In the great final scene of
Aeschylus'Eumenidesthe chorus expressesthe doctrineexplicitly:
the welfareof the statecan rest only on harmonyand freedomfrom
faction. Thucydides implies this more than once.l4 And it
underliesthe theory of the mixed constitutionas we find it in
The most empiricalof Greekphilosophers,Aristotlecollectedvast
quantitiesof dataaboutthe actualworkingsof Greekstates,including
facts about stasis. The Politics includesan elaboratetaxonomyof
stasis, and even adviceon how stasis can be avoidedundera variety

of conditions. But Aristotle's canons and goals were ethical, his

work a branch of moral philosophy. He viewed political behaviour
teleologically, according to the moral ends which are man's by his
nature; and those ends are subverted if the governors make their
decisions out of personal or class interest. That is the test by which
he distinguished between the three "right" forms of government
("according to absolute justice") and their degenerate forms:
monarchy becomes tyranny when an individual rules in his own
interest rather than in the interest of the whole state, aristocracy
similarly becomes oligarchy, and polity becomes democracy (or, in
the language of Polybius, democracy becomes mob-rule).l5 Among
democracies,furthermore,those in rural communities will be superior
because farmers are too occupied to bother with meetings, whereas
urban craftsmen and shopkeepers find it easy to attend, and such
people "are generally a bad lot''.l6
On this matter of special interest and general interest, of faction
and concord, the available exceptions to the line of thinking I have
summarized are strikingly few and unrewarding. One deserves
particular mention, and that, ironically enough, is the pamphlet on
the Athenian state by an anonymous writer of the later half of the
fifth century B.C. who now generally goes under the too amiable label
of the Old Oligarch. This work is a diatribe against the democracy,
hammering at the theme that the system is a bad one because all its
actions are determined by the interests of the poorer (inferior)
sections of the citizenry. The argument is familiar enough; what
gives the pamphlet its unusual interest is this conclusion:
As for the Athenian system of government, I do not like it. However,
since they decided to become a democracy,it seems to me that they are
preservingthe democracywell by the methods I have described.l7
In other words, the strength of the Athenian government comes
precisely from that which many merely criticize, namely, the fact
that it is government by a faction acting unashamedly to its own
The great differencebetween political analysis and moral judgment
could not be better exemplified. Do not be misled, says the Old
Oligarch in effect: I and some of you dislike democracy, but a
reasoned consideration of the facts shows that what we condemn on
moral grounds is very strong as a practicalforce, and its strength lies
in its immorality. This is a very promising line of investigation, but
it was not pursued in antiquity. Instead, those thinkers whose
orientation was anti-democratic persisted in their concentration on
political philosophy. And those who sided wlth the democracy?

A. H. M. Joneshas recentlytriedto formulatethe democratictheory

from the fragmentaryevidenceavailablein the survivingliterature,
most of it from the fourth century.l8 Still more recently, Eric
Havelockmade a massive attempt to discoverwhat he calls the
"liberaltemper"in fifth-centuryAthenianpolitics,chieflyfrom the
fragmentsof the pre-Socraticphilosophers. In reviewinghis book,
Momiglianosuggestedthat the effort was foredoomedbecause"it
is not absolutely certain that a well-articulateddemocraticidea
existedin the fifthcentury''.l9 I go further:I do not believethatan
articulateddemocratictheory ever existedin Athens. There were
notions,maxims,generalities-which Jones has assembled-but
they do not add up to a systematictheory. And why indeedshould
they? It is a curious fallacy to suppose that every social or
governmental system in history must necessarily have been
accompaniedby an elaboratetheoreticalsystem. Wherethat does
occurit is oftenthe workof lawyers,andAthenshadno juristsin the
proper sense. Or it may be the work of philosophers,but the
systematicphilosophersof this period had a set of concepts and
values incompatiblewith democracy. The committeddemocrats
met the attack by ignoring it, by going about the business of
conductingtheir politicalaffairsaccordingto their own notions,but
withoutwritingtreatiseson what they were about. None of this,
however,is a reasonwhy we shouldnot attemptto makethe analysis
the Atheniansfailed to makefor themselves.
No accountof the Atheniandemocracycan have any validityif it
overlooksfour points, each obvious in itself, yet all four taken
together,I ventureto say,arerarelygivensuicient weightin modern
accounts. The firstis thatthis wasa directdemocracy,andhowever
much such a system may have in common with representative
democracy,the two differ in certain fundamentalrespects, and
particularlyon the very issues with which I am here concerned.
The secondpointis whatEhrenbergcallsthe "narrowness of space"
of the Greek city-state,an appreciationof which, he has rightly
stressed,is crucialto an understandingof its politicallife.20 The
implicationsweresummedup by Aristotlein a famouspassage:
A state composed of too many . . . will not be a true state, for the simple
reason that it can hardly have a true constitution. Who can be the general
of a mass so excessively large? And who can be herald, except Stentor?21
The third point is that the Assemblywas the crownof the system,
possessingthe right and the powerto makeall the policy decisions,
in actual practice with few limitations,whether of precedentor
scope. (Strictly speakingthere was appealfrom the Assemblyto
the popularcourtswiththeirlargelay
ignorethe courtsin much,thoughnotmembership. Nevertheless,I
all, of whatfollows,becauseI
believe, as the Athenians did themselves,
complicatedthe practicalmechanismof politics,the though they
expression,not a reduction,of the absolutepowercourts were an
of the people
functioningdirectly; and because I believe that the
analysisI am tryingto makewould not be operational
would perhaps be obscuredif in this brief significantlyalteredand
concentrateon the Assembly.) The Assembly,compass finally,
I did not
otherthanan open-airmassmeetingon the hill was nothing
the fourthpoint thereforeis that we are calledthe Pnyx,and
dealingwith problemsof
crowdbehaviour;its psychology,its laws of
have been identicalwith those of the small behaviour,could not
largerkind of body of which a modern group, or even of the
(though,it must be admitted,we can do parliamentis an example
little more today than
acknowledge theirexistence).
Who were the Assembly? That is a question
we cannotanswer
satisfactorily.Every male citizen automaticallybecame
attendwhenhe reachedhis eighteenthbirthday, eligible to
andhe retainedthat
privilege to his death(exceptforthe verysmallnumber
civicrightsfor one reasonor another). In wholost their
Pericles'timethe number
eligiblewas of the orderof 4s,ooo. Womenwere
thefairly numerousnon-citizenswho were free excluded;so were
themGreeks,but outsidersin the political men, nearlyall of
farmorenumerousslaves. All figuresare a sphere; and so were the
bewildlyinaccurateto suggestthatthe adult guess, but it wouldnot
about one sixth of the totalpopulation(takingtown
together).But the criticalquestionto be determined and countryside
orfiveor six thousandof the 45,oooactually is whichfour
wentto meetings. It is
reasonable to imaginethat undernormalconditionsthe
came chieflyfromthe urbanresidents. Fewerpeasants attendance
havetakenthe journeyin orderto attenda meetingof the wouldoften
Therefore one large section of the eligible population Assembly.22
respect to direct participation,excluded. That is was, with
know,but it doesnot get us far enough. We canguess something to
withthe aid of a few hints in the sources,that the for example,
normally weighted on the side of the more agedcomposition
well-to-domen butthatis onlya guess,andthe degreeof the more
beyondeven guessing. weighting
Still, one importantfact can be fixed, namely,
the Assemblywas unique in its composition. that each meeting
membership in the Assemblyas such, only membershipin was no
a given

Assemblyon a given day. Perhapsthe shifts were not significant

from meeting to meeting in quiet, peacefultimes when no vital
issues were being debated. Yet even then an importantelementof
predictabilitywas lacking. When he entered the Assembly, no
policy-makercouldbe quitesurethat a changein the compositionof
the audiencehad not occurred,whetherthroughaccidentor through
moreor less organizedmobilizationof some particularsectorof the
population,which could tip the balance of the votes against a
decisionmadeat a previousmeeting. And times wereoften neither
peacefulnor normal. In the finaldecadeof the PeloponnesianWar,
to take an extreme example, the whole rural populationwas
compelledto abandonthe countrysideand live withinthe city walls.
It is beyondreasonablebeliefthat duringthis periodtherewas not a
largerproportionof countrymenat meetingsthan was normal. A
similarsituationprevailedfor brieferperiodsat othertimes,whenan
enemy army was operating in Attica. We need not interpret
Aristophanes literallywhenhe opensthe Acharnianswith a soliloquy
by a farmerwho is sittingin the Pnyx waitingfor the Assemblyto
begin and sayingto himselfhow he hatesthe city and everyonein it
andhowhe intendsto shoutdownanyspeakerwhoproposesanything
except peace. But Cleon could not have affordedthe luxury of
ignoring this strange element seated on the hillside before him.
They mightupseta policyline whichhe hadbeenableto carrywhile
the Assemblywas filledonly with city-dwellers.
The one clearcut instance came in the year 4I I. Then the
Assemblywas terrorizedinto votingthe democracyout of existence,
and it was surelyno accidentthat this occurredat a time when the
fleet was fully mobilizedand stationedon the islandof Samos. The
citizenswho servedin the navywere drawnfromthe poor and they
were known to be the staunchestsupportersof the democratic
system in its late fifth-centuryform. Being in Samos,they could
not be in Athens, thus enabling the oligarchsto win the day
througha majorityin the Assemblywhich was not only a minority
of the eligiblemembersbut anuntypicalminority. Oursourcesdo not
permitus to studythe historyof Athenianpolicysystematically with
such knowledgeat our disposal,but surelythe men who led Athens
were acutelyawareof the possibilityof a changein the composition
of the Assembly,and includedit in theirtacticalcalculations.
Each meeting,furthermore,was completein itself. Grantedthat
muchpreparatory workwasdoneby the Council(boule),thatinformal
canvassingtook place,and that therewerecertaindevicesto control
and check frivolousor irresponsiblemotions,it is neverthelesstrue
that the normal procedure was for a
proposal to be introduced,
debated, and either passed (with or without
in a single continuous sitting. We must amendment) or rejected
reckon, therefore, not only
with narrownessof space but also with
narrownessof time, and with
the pressures that generated, especially
on leaders (and would-be
leaders). I have alreadymentionedthe case of
the Sicilian expedition,
which was decided in principle on one day
and then planned, so to
speak,five days later when the scale and cost
were discussed and voted.
Another kind of case is that of the
well-known Mytilene debate.
Earlyin the PeloponnesianNYarthe city of
Athenian Empire. The rebellion was crushed revolted from the
and the Athenian
Assembly decided to make an example of the
the entire male population to death. Mytileneans by putting
Revulsion of feeling set in at
once, the issue was reopened at another
meeting the very next day,
and the decision was reversed.23 Cleon,
at that time the most
important political figure in Athens,
advocated the policy of
frightfulness. The second Assembly was a personal
he had participatedin the debates on both defeat for him-
days though he seems
not to have lost his status even
temporarily as a result (as he well
might have). But how does one measure
the psychological effect
onhim of such a twenty-four hour reversal
? How does one estimate
notonly its impact, but also his awareness
all through his career as a
leaderthat such a possibility was a
constant factor in Athenian
politics? I cannot answer such questions
that the weight could have been no concretely, but I submit
light one. Cleon surely
appreciated, as we cannot, what it promised for men
inthe second year of the like himself that
Peloponnesian War, when morale was
temporarilyshattered by the plague, the people
finedhim heavily, and deposed him for a turned on Pericles,
brief period from the office
ofgeneral.24 If this could happen to
Pericles, who was immune ?
In the Mytilene case Thucydides'
wasa lost cause the second day, that he tried to suggests that Cleon's
to persuadethe Assembly
abandon a course of action which they intended
moment the session opened, and that he failed. Butpursue from the
meeting the story of the
in 4II, as Thucydides tells it, is a
different one. Peisander
beganthe day with the feeling against
his proposal that the
introductionof an oligarchical form of
government should be
considered, and he ended it with a victory. The
swung actual debate had
enough votes to give him a majority.25
Debate designed to win votes among an
numbering several thousands means oratory,in the strict audience
word.It was therefore perfectly precise sense of the
language to call political

leaders "orators",as a synonym and not merely, as we might do, as a

mark of the particular skill of a particular political figure. Under
Athenian conditions, however, much more is implied. The picture
of the Assembly I have been trying to draw suggests not only oratory,
but also a "spontaneity" of debate and decision which parliamentary
democracy lacks, at least in our day.2fi Everyone, speakers and
audience alike, knew that before night fell the issue must be decided,
that each man present would vote "freely" (without fear of whips or
other party controls) and purposefully, and therefore that every
speech, every argument must seek to persuade the audience on the
spot, that it was all a serious performance, as a whole and in each of
its parts.
I place the word "freely" in inverted commas, for the last thing I
wish to imply is the activity of a free, disembodied rational faculty,
that favourite illusion of so much political theory since the
Enlightenment. Members of the Assembly were free from the
controls which bind the members of a parliament: they held no
office, they were not elected, and therefore they could neither be
punished nor rewarded for their voting records. But they were not
free from the human condition, from habit and tradition, from the
influences of family and friends, of class and status, of personal
experiences, resentments, prejudices, values, aspirations, and fears,
much of it in the subconscious. These they took with them when
they went up on the Pnyx, and with these they listened to the debates
and made up their minds, under conditions very different from the
voting practices of our day. There is a vast difference between
voting on infrequent occasions for a man or a party on the one hand,
and on the other hand voting every few days directly on the issues
themselves. In Aristotle's time the Assembly met at least four
times in each thirty-six day period. Whether this was also the rule
in the fifth century is not known, but there were occasions, as during
the Peloponnesian War, when meetings took place even more
frequently. Then there were the two other factors I have already
mentioned, the smallness of the Athenian world, in which every
member of the Assembly knew personally many others sitting on the
Pnyx, and the mass-meeting background of the voting a situation
virtually unrelatedto the impersonal act of markinga voting paper in
physical isolation from every other voter; an act we perform, further-
more, with the knowledge that millions of other men and women are
simultaneously doing the same thing in many places, some of them
hundreds of miles distant. When, for example, Alcibiades and
Nicias rose in the Assembly in 4I5, the one to propose the expedition

against Sicily, the other to argue against it, each knew that, should
the motion be carried,one or both would be asked to command in the
field. And in the audience there were many who were being asked
to vote on whether they, personally, were to march out in a few days,
as officers, soldiers, or members of the fleet. Such examples can be
duplicated in a number of other, scarcely less vital areas: taxation,
food supply, pay for jury duty, extension of the franchise, laws of
citizenship, and so on.
To be sure, much of the activity of the Assembly was in a lower
key, largely occupied with technical measures (such as cult
regulations) or ceremonial acts (such as honorary decrees for a great
variety of individuals). It would be a mistake to imagine Athens
as a city in which week in and week out great issues dividing the
population were being debated and decided. But on the other hand,
there were very few single years (and certainly no ten-year periods)
in which some great issue did not arise: the two Persian invasions,
the long series of measures which completed the process of
democratization,the Empire, the PeloponnesianWar (which occupied
twenty-seven years) and its two oligarchic interludes, the endless
diplomatic manoeuvres and wars of the fourth century, with their
attendant fiscal crises, all culminating in the decades of Philip and
Alexander. It did not often happen, as it did to Cleon in the dispute
over Mytilene, that a politician was faced with a repeat performance
the following day; but the Assembly did meet constantly, without
long periods of holiday or recess. The week-by-week conduct of a
war, for example, had to go before the Assembly week by week; as if
Winston Churchill were to have been compelled to take a referendum
before each move in World War II, and then to face another vote
after the move was made, in the Assembly or the law-courts, to
determine not merely what the next step should be but also whether
he was to be dismissed and his plans abandoned, or even whether he
was to be held criminally culpable, subject to a fine or exile or,
conceivably, the death penalty either for the proposal itself or for the
way the previous move had been carried out. It was part of the
Athenian governmentalsystem that, in addition to the endless chall-
enge in the Assembly, a politician was faced, equally without
respite, with the threat of politically inspired lawsuits.27
If I insist on the psychological aspect, it is not to ignore the
considerable political experience of many men who voted in the
Assembly-gained in the Council, the law-courts, the demes, and
the Assembly itself nor is it merely to counter what I have called
the disembodied-rationalismconception. I want to stress something

very positive, namely, the intense degree of involvement which

attendance at the Athenian Assembly entailed. And this intensity
was equally (or even more strongly) the case among the orators, for
each vote judged them as well as the issue to be decided on. If I had
to choose one word which best characterizedthe condition of being a
political leader in Athens, that word would be "tension". In some
measure that is true of all politicians who are subject to a vote.
"The desperatenessof politics and government" is R. B. McCallum's
telling phrase, which he then developed in this way:
Certainly a note of cynicism and weariness with the manoeuvres and
posturingsof partypoliticiansis naturaland to an extent properto discerning
dons and civil servants,who can reflect independentlyand at leisure on the
doings of their harried masters in government. But this seems to arise
from a deliberaterejection . . . of the aims and ideals of party statesmenand
their followersand the continualresponsibilityfor the securityand well-being
in the state. For one thing partyleadersare in some sense apostles,although
all may not be Gladstones*there arepoliciesto which they dedicatethemselves
and policies which alarmand terrify them.28
I believe this to be a fair description of Athenian leaders, too,
despite the absence of political parties, equally applicable to
Themistocles as to Aristides, to Pericles as to Cimon, to Cleon as to
Nicias; for, it should be obvious, this kind of judgment is independent
of any judgment about the merits or weaknesses of a particular
programmeor policy. More accurately, I should have said that this
understatesthe case for the Athenians. Their leaders had no respite.
Because their influence had to be earned and exerted directly and
immediately-this was a necessary consequence of a direct, as
distinct from a representative, democracy they had to lead in
person, and they had also to bear, in person, the brunt of the
opposition's attacks. More than that, they walked alone. They
had their lieutenants, of course, and politicians made alliances with
each other. But these were fundamentally personal links, shifting
frequently, useful in helping to carry through a particular measure
or even a group of measures, but lacking that quality of support, that
buttressing or cushioning effect, which is provided by a bureaucracy
and political party, in another way by an institutionalized Establish-
ment like the Roman Senate, or in still another way by large-scale
patronage as in the Roman clientage system. The critical point
is that there was no "government"in the modern sense. There were
posts and offices, but none had any standing in the Assembly. A man
was a leader solely as a function of his personal, and in the literal
sense, unofficial status within the Assembly itself. The test of
whether or not he held that status was simply whether the Assembly
did or did not vote as he wished, and therefore the test was repeated
with each proposal.

in Athens, not
These were the conditions which faced all leaders dismissed as
merely those whom Thucydides and
some modern historians
"demagogues",not merely those whom
"radical democrats", but everyone, aristocrator commoner,
mis-call George Grote's
or self-seeker, able or incompetent, who, in
altruist No
to advise" the Athenians.
phrase,"stood forward prominently greatly.
men to stand forward varied
doubtthe motives which moved
one of them without
Butthat does not matter in this context, for each and contest for,
to work
exception,choseto aspire to, and actively the risks.
that entailed, including
leadership,knowing just what techniques, too.
they all had to use the same
Withinnarrow limits, and boisterous,
Cleon'splatform manner may have been inelegantthe first man to
he was
buthow serious is Aristotle's remark that
we to imagine that Thucydides the son of
"shoutand rail" ?29 Are
Nicias whispered when
Melesias(and kinsman of the historian) and
to Pericles and Cleon,
theyaddressed the Assembly in opposition
brought his upper-class backers
respectively? Thucydides, who a claque ?30
seated them together to form
intothe Assembly and more than the
This is obviously a frivolous approach, nothing Aristotle noted,
expressionof class prejudice and snobbishness.
in the social history of
thedeath of Pericles marked a turning-point
have been drawn from
Athenianleadership. Until then they seem to
the men who were
the old aristocratic landed families, including completed the
the reforms which
responsible for carrying out emerged.3l
a new class of leaders
democracy. After Pericles the tanner or
Despite the familiar prejudicial references to poor men, not
were in fact not
Cleophon the lyre-maker, these of means who
politician, but men
craftsmen and labourers turned their outlook,
differed from their predecessors in their ancestry presumption in
provoked resentment and hosti]ity for their
and who
When such attitudes are
breaking the old monopoly of leadership.
Xenophon to find the
under discussion, one can always turn to necessarily the
lowest level of explanation (which is not leaders was a man
of the new
wrong one). One of the most important his wealth from a
like Cleon before him, drew
called Anytus, who, career, but he
slave tannery. Anytus had a long and distinguished Socrates. What is
prosecution of
was also the chief actor in the had publicly
Xenophon's explanation? Simply that
for bringing up his son to follow in his trade instead
berated Anytus Anytus, in revenge
and that
of educating him as a proper gentleman,
had Socrates tried and executed.32
for this personal insult, fundamental issues
None of this is to deny that there were very

behind the thick fasade of prejudiceand abuse. Throughoutthe

fifth centurythere were the twin issues of democracy(or oligarchy)
and empire,broughtto a climaxin the PeloponnesianWar. Defeat
in the warendedthe empireandit soon also endedthe debateabout
the kind of governmentAthens was to have. Oligarchyceasedto
be a seriousissue in practicalpolitics. It is only the persistenceof
the philosopherswhich createsan illusionaboutit; they continued
to argue fifth-centuryissues in the fourth century,but politically
in a vacuum. Down to the middleof the fourthcentury,the actual
policy questionswereperhapsless dramaticthan before,thoughnot
necessarilyless vital to the participants such mattersas navy
finance,foreign relationsboth with Persia and with other Greek
states,andthe ever-presentproblemof cornsupply. Then camethe
finalgreatconflict,overthe risingpowerof Macedon. That debate
wenton forsomethreedecades,andit endedonlyin the yearfollowing
the deathof Alexanderthe Greatwhenthe Macedonianarmyput an
end to democracyitself in Athens.
All these were questions about which men could legitimately
disagree,and disagreewith passion. On the issues, the arguments
of (say)Platorequireearnestconsideration but only insofaras he
addressedhimself to the issues. The injection of the charge of
demagogyinto the polemic amountsto a resortto the very same
unacceptabledebatingtricksfor whichthe so-calleddemagoguesare
condemned. Suppose,for example,that Thucydideswas right in
attributingAlcibiades'advocacyof the Sicilian expeditionto his
personalextravaganceand to variousdiscreditableprivatemotives.
Whatrelevancehas thatto the meritsof the proposalitself? Would
the Sicilianexpedition,as a war measure,have been a betteridea if
Alcibiadeshad been an angelicyouth? To ask the questionis to
dismissit, and all othersuch argumentswith it. One must dismiss
as summarilythe objectionsto oratory:by definition,to wish to lead
Athens implies the burden of trying to persuadeAthens, and an
essentialpartof that effortconsistedin publicoratory.
One can drawdistinctions,of course. I shouldconcedethe label
"demagogue" in its mostpejorativesense,for example,if a campaign
werebuiltaroundpromiseswhicha cliqueof oratorsneitherintended
to honournorwerecapableof honouring. But,significantlyenough,
this accusationis rarelylevelled againstthe so-calleddemagogues,
and the one definiteinstancewe know comesfrom the othercamp.
The oligarchyof 4II was sold to the Athenianson the appealthat
this was now the only wayto obtainPersiansupportandthus to win
the otherwiselost war. Even on the most favourableview, as
Thucydidesmakesquite clear,Peisanderand some
may have meant this originally,but they quicklyof his associates
pretence of trying to win the war while they abandonedall
preservingthe newlywon oligarchyon as narrowa base concentratedon
That is what I should call "demagogy",if the word as possible.33
is to
pejorativeflavour. That is "misleadingthe people" in merit its
sense. the literal
But what then of the interest question,of the
betweenthe interestsof the wholestateandthe interests supposed clash
or factionwithinthe state? Is that not a valid of a section
pitythatwe haveno directevidence(andnv indirect distinction ? It is a
value)aboutthe waythe long debatewas conducted evidence of any
when Cleisthenesestablishedthe democracyin its between So8 B.C.,

and the later years of Pericles'dominance. Thoseprimitiveform,

whenclassinterestswouldmost likelyhave been were the years
andbluntly. Actualspeechessurviveonly fromthe expoundedopenly
centuryon, andthey revealwhatanyonecouldhave end of the fifth
notbeen blindedby Plato and others,namely,thatguessedwho had
customarily a nationalone, not a factionalone. Thereisappeal
pandering to the poor againstthe rich, to the open
townor tlD the town againstthe farmers. Why farmersagainstthe
havebeerl? Politiciansregularlysay that whatindeed
is in the best interests of the nation, and, are advocating
what is much more
important, they believeit. Often,too, they charge
withsacrificingthe nationalinterestfor special their opponents
believethat. I know of no evidencewhich warrants interests,and they
the view
Athenian politicianswere somehowpeculiarin this respect;northat do
Iknowanyreasonto holdthatthe argumentis an
(orbetter) one becauseit is put forth not by a essentially different
politicianbut by
Aristophanes or Thucydidesor Plato.
At the same time a politiciancannot ignore
interests class or sectional
or the conflictsamongthem,whetherin a
orin the Assemblyin ancientAthens. The constituency today
suggests evidencefor Athens
that on manyissues-the Empireand the
War, for example,or relationswithPhilipof Macedon- Peloponnesian
overpolicy did not closelyfollowclassor sectionallines.the divisions
questions,such as the openingof the archonshipand other other
men of the lowerpropertycensusesor of pay for jury officesto
thefourth century,the financingof the fleet, or the service or, in
wereby theirnatureclassissues. Advocateson both theoricfund,
and sidesknewthis
knew how and when (and when not) to make their
accordingly, at the same time that they each argued,and appeals

that only theirrespectivepoints of view wouldadvanceAthensas a

whole. To plead againstEphialtesand Periclesthat eunomia, the
well-orderedstate ruled by law, had the higher moralclaim, was
merelya plea for the statusquo dressedup in fancylanguage.34
In his little bookon the Athenianconstitution,Aristotlewrotethe
Pericles was the first to give pay for jury service, as a demagogicmeasureto
counter the wealth of Cimon. The latter, who possessed the fortune of a
tyrant . . . supportedmany of his fellow-demesmen,every one of whom was
free to come daily and receive from him enough for his sustenance. Besides
none of his estates was enclosed, so that anyone who wished could take from
its fruits. Pericles'propertydid not permit such largesse,and on the advice
of Damonides . . . he distributed among the people from what was their
own . . . and so he introducedpay for the jurors.35
Aristotlehimself,as I indicatedearlier,praisedPericles'regimeand
he refusedresponsibilityfor this silly explanation,but otherswho
repeatedit, bothbeforeandafterhim,thoughtit wasa tellinginstance
of demagogypanderingto the commonpeople. The obviousretort
is to askwhetherwhatCimondidwasnot panderingin equalmeasure,
or whetheroppositionto pay for juryservicewas not pandering,too,
but in that case to the men of property. No useful analysisis
possiblein suchterms,for they serveonlyto concealthe realgrounds
for disagreement. If one is opposedto full democracyas a form of
government,then it is wrongto encouragepopularparticipationin
the juriesby offeringpay; but it is wrongbecausethe objectiveis
wrong,not becausePericlesobtainedleadershipstatusby proposing
andcarryingthe measure. Andviceversa,if onefavoursa democratic
Whatemergesfrom all this is a very simpleproposition,namely,
that demagogues I use the word in a neutralsense were a
structuralelementin the Athenianpoliticalsystem. By this I mean,
first,that the systemcouldnot functionat all withoutthem; second,
that the term is equallyapplicableto all leaders,regardlessof class
or point of view; and third,that withinratherbroadlimits they are
to be judgedindividuallynot by theirmannersor theirmethods,but
by their performance. (And that, I need hardlyadd, is precisely
howthey were judgedin life, if not in books.) Up to a pointone can
easilyparallelthe Atheniandemagoguewith the modernpolitician,
but there soon comesa point when distinctionsmust be drawn,not
merelybecausethe workof governmenthas becomeso much more
complex, but more basicallybecauseof the differencesbetween a
direct and a representativedemocracy. I need not repeatwhat I
have already said about the mass-meeting(with its uncertain

composition),aboutthe lackof a bureaucracy anda party

as a result, the continuousstate of tension in which system,and,
an Athenian
demagoguelived and worked. But thereis one consequence
needsa little examination,for theseconditionsmakeup an which
part (if not the whole)of the explanationof an important
featureof Athenianpolitics,and of Greekpoliticsapparentlynegative
generally. David
Humeput it this way:
To exclude faction from a free government,is very
impracticable; but such inveterate rage betweendiEcult, if not altogether
the factions, and such
bloody maxims are found, in modern times, amongst
In ancient history we may always observe, religious parties alone.
whetherthe nobles or people (for I can observewhere one party prevailed,
no differencein this respect),
that they immediatelybutchered ... and banished .... No form of process,
no law, no trial, no pardon .... These
liberty, but seem not to have understoodit people were extremely fond of
very well.36
The remarkable thingaboutAthensis how nearshe
the completeexceptionto this correctobservationofcameto being
beingfree, in otherwords,fromstasis in its ultimate Hume's, to
democracywas establishedin 508 s.c. followinga brief civil The
Thereafter,in its history of nearly two centuries,armed war.
butchery terror,
withoutprocessor law,wasemployedon only
in4I I and404, bothtimesby oligarchicfactionswhichtwooccasions,
ofthe state for brief periods. And the secondtime, seized control
in particular,
thedemocraticfaction,when it regainedpower,was
law-abiding in its treatmentof the oligarchs,so much so that they
wrung praiseevenfromPlato. Writingaboutthe restorationof
hesaidthat "no one shouldbe surprisedthat some 403,
men tooksavage
personal revenge againsttheir enemies in this revolution,
general the returningparty behavedequitably".37This is but not
suggest that the two centuriesweretotallyfree fromindividual to
ofinjusticeand brutality. Hume speakingof acts
andnot of Athens in particular observed"no Greecegenerally
respect" differencein this
betweenthe factions. We seemto havea less clearvisionof
Athens,at least, blocked by the distortingmirror of
men like
Thucydides, Xenophonand Plato, which magnifiesthe exceptional
incidents of extremedemocraticintolerance-such as the trial
execution of the generalswho won the battleof Arginusaeandand
andexecutionof Socrates;whileit minimizesandoften the
altogether obliterates
the even worsebehaviouron the otherside, for example,
thepoliticalassassination of Ephialtesin 462 or 46I andof Androcles
4I I, eachin his time the most
influentialof the
If Athenslargelyescapedthe extremeformsofpopular leaders.
stasis so common
elsewhere, she could not escapeits lesser manifestations.Athenian

politicshad an all-or-nothingquality. The objectiveon each side

was not merelyto defeatthe oppositionbut to crushit, to beheadit
by destroyingits leaders. And often enoughthis game was played
within the sides, as a numberof men manoeuvredfor leadership.
The chieftechniquewasthe politicaltrial,andthe chiefinstrumental-
ities werethe dining-clubsandthe sycophants. These,too, I would
argue,were structurallya part of the system, not an accidentalor
avoidableexcrescence. Ostracism,the so-calledgrapheparanomon,
and the formal popular scrutiny of archons,generalsand other
officials,were all deliberatelyintroducedas safety devices, either
againstexcessiveindividualpower(andpotentialtyranny)or against
corruptionand malfeasanceor againstunthinkinghasteand passion
in the Assembly itself.38 Abstractlyit may be easy enough to
demonstratethat, howeverpraiseworthyin intention,these devices
inevitablyinvitedabuse. The troubleis thattheywerethe only kind
of device available,againbecausethe democracywas a direct one,
lacking a party machineryand so forth. Leadersand would-be
leadershad no alternativebut to makeuse of them, and to seek out
still otherwaysof harassingandbreakingcompetitorsandopponents.
Hard as this all-out warfareno doubt was on the participants,
unfairandviciouson occasion,it does not followthatit wasaltogether
an evil for the communityas a whole. Substantialinequalities,
serious conflictsof interest, and legitimatedivergencesof opinion
were real and intense. Under such conditions,conflictis not only
inevitable,it is a virtue in democraticpolitics, for it is conflict
combinedwith consent, and not consent alone, which preserves
democracyfromerodinginto oligarchy. On the constitutionalissue
whichdominatedso muchof the fifthcenturyit wasthe advocatesof
popular democracywho triumphed, and they did so precisely
becausethey foughtfor it and foughthard. They foughta partisan
fight, and the Old Oligarchmadethe correctdiagnosisin attributing
Athenianstrengthto justthat. Of course,his insight,or perhapshis
honesty,did not extendso far as to note the fact that in his day the
democracy'sleaders were still men of substance, and often of
aristocraticbackground:not only Pericles,but Cleonand Cleophon,
andthenThrasybulusandAnytus. The twolatterled the democratic
factionin overthrowingthe Thirty Tyrantsin 403, and in following
their victory with the amnesty which even Plato praised. The
partisanfightwas not a straightclassfight;it also drewsupportfrom
amongthe rich and the well-born. Nor was it a fightwithoutrules
or legitimacy. The democraticcounter-sloganto eunomiawas
isonomia,and,as Vlastoshas said,the Athenianspursued"thegoalof

politicalequality. . . not in defiance,but in supportof the rule of

law". The Athenianpoor,he noted,did not onceraisethe standard
Greek revolutionarydemand - redistributionof the land
throughoutthe fifth and fourthcenturies.39
In thosetwo centuriesAthenswas,by all pragmatictests, muchthe
greatestGreekstate, with a powerfulfeeling of community,with a
toughness and resilience tempered, even granted its imperial
ambitions,by a humanityand sense of equity and responsibility
quite extraordinary for its day (and for manyanotherday as well).
Lord Acton, paradoxically enough,was one of the few historiansto
have graspedthe historicsignificanceof the amnestyof 403. "The
hostile parties",he wrote, "were reconciled,and proclaimedan
amnesty,the firstin history".40 Thefirst in history,despiteall the
familiarweaknesses,despite the crowdpsychology,the slaves, the
personalambitionof many leaders,the impatienceof the majority
with opposition. Nor was this the only Athenianinnovation:the
structureand mechanismof the democracywere all their own
invention,as they gropedfor somethingwithoutprecedent,having
nothingto go on but their own notionof freedom,their community
solidarity,their willingnessto inquire (or at least to accept the
consequences of inquiry), and their widely shared political
Much of the creditfor the Athenianachievementmust go to the
politicalleadershipof the state. That, it seems to me, is beyond
dispute. It certainlywouldnot have been disputedby the average
Athenian. Despiteall the tensionsand uncertainties,the occasional
snap judgment and unreasonableshift in opinion, the people
supportedPericlesfor morethan two decades,as they supporteda
very differentkind of man, Demosthenes,under very different
conditionsa centurylater. These men, and otherslike them (less
wellknownnow),wereableto carrythrougha moreorless consistent
and successful programmeover long stretches of time. It is
altogetherperverseto ignorethis fact, or to ignorethe structureof
political life by which Athens became what she was, while one
follows the lead of Aristophanesor Plato and looks only at the
personalitiesof the politicians,or at the crooksand failuresamong
them, or at some ethicalnormsof an idealexistence.
In the end Athens lost her freedomand independence,brought
down by a superiorexternalpower. She went down fighting,with
an understanding of whatwas at stakeclearerthanthat possessedby
many critics in later ages. That final struggle was led by
Demosthenes,a demagogue. We cannot have it both ways: we

cannot praise and admire the achievement of two centuries, and at

the same time dismiss the demagogues who were the architects of
the political frameworkand the makers of policy, or the Assembly in
and through which they did their work.
Cambridge M.I. Finley

1 This is a revised text of a paper read to the Hellenic Society in London on
25 March I96I, of which a shortened version was broadcast on the Third
Programmeof the B.B.C. and published in The Listenerof 5 and I2 October
I96I. I am gratefulto ProfessorsA. Andrewesand A. H. M. Jones, Messrs.
P. A. Brunt and M. J. Cowling for advice and criticism.
2 Thuc., 8.I.I. 3 A Historyof Greece,new edn., (London, I862), V. p. 3I7 n. 3.
4 Thuc., 6.I-25. 5 Thuc., 2 65 9-II
8 Used only in 4.2I.3, and "demagogy"in 8.65.2. 7 Thuc, 2 65.8
8Const. of Athens, 27-28; cf. Politics, 2.9.3 (I274a3-I0). A. W. Gomme
A HistoricalCommentaryon Thucydides,(Oxford, I956), ii. p. I93, points out
that "Plutarch divided Perikles' political career sharply into two halves, the
first when he did use base demagogic arts to gain power, the second when he
had gained it and used it nobly".
9 Aristophanes uses "demagogy" and "demagogic" once each in the
Knights,lines I9I and 2I7, respectively. Otherwisein his survivingplays there
is only the verb "to be a demagogue",also used once (Frogs,4I9).
0 Thuc., 8.86.
11The only systematic analysis known to me, and that a brief one, is the
inaugurallecture of D. Loenen, Stasis, (Amsterdam,I953). He saw, contrary
to the view most common among modern writers, that "illegality is precisely
not the constantelement in stasis" (p. 5). 12 Gorgias,502E-5IgD.
13 See R. Bambrough, "Plato's Political Analogies", in Philosophy,Politics
and Society,ed. Peter Laslett, (Oxford, I956), pp. 98-II5.
14 It is developed most fully in his long account (3.69-85) of the stasis in
Corcyra in 427 B.C.
5 Arist., Pol., 3.4-5 (I278b-79b), 4.6-7 (I2g3b-g4b); Polyb. 6.3-9.
6Arist., Pol., 6.2.7-8 (I3 I9a); cf. Xenophon, Hellenica5.2.5-7.
17 Pseudo-Xenophon, Const. of Athens, 3.I see A. Fuks, "The COld
Oligarch',"Scripta Hierosolymitana,i (I954), pp. 2I-35.
8 AthenianDemocracy,(Oxford, I957), ch. iii.
19E. A. Havelock, The Liberal Temperin Greek Politics, (London, I957)
reviewedby A. Momiglianoin Riv. stor. ital., lxxii (I960), pp. 534-4I.
20 Aspectsof the Ancient World,(Oxford, I946), pp. 40-45.
21 Politics, 7.4i7 (I326b3-7)-
22 That Aristotle drew very important conclusions from this state of affairs
has alreadybeen indicated, at note I6.
23 ThUC-5 3-27-5?- 24 ThUC., 2.6SvI-4 25 Thuc-, 8@53-54
26 See the valuable article by 0. Reverdin, "Remarquessur la vie politique
d'Athenes au Ve siecle", MuseumHelveticum,ii (I945), pp. 20I-I2.
27 p. Cloche, "Les hommes politiques et la justice populairedans l'Athenes
du IVe siecle", Historia, ix (I960), pp. 80-95, has recently argued that this
threat is exaggeratedby modern historians, at least for the fourth century.
Useful as his assembling of the evidence is, he lays too much stress on the
argumentfrom silence, whereas the sources are far from full enough to bear
such statisticalweight. 28 A review in The Listener(2 Feb. I96I), p. 233.

29 Arist., Const.,28.3.
30 Plutarch, Pericles, I I.2. It was against such tactics that the restored
democracyin 4I0 requiredmembersof the Council to swearto take their seats
by lot: Philochorus328 F I40 (in Frag. gr. Hist., ed. F. Jacoby).
31 Arist., Const., 28.I. 32 Xen., Apology, 30-32. See generally Georges
Meautis, L'aristocratzeathenienne,(Paris, Ig27). 33 Thuc., 8.68-9I.
34 "Eunomia. . . the ideal of the past and even of Solon . . . now meant the
best constitution, based on inequality. It was now the ideal of oligarchy":
Ehrenberg,Aspects,p. 92. 35 Arist., Const., 27.3-4
36 "Of the Populousnessof AncientNations", in Essays,World'sClassicsedn.
(London, I903), pp. 405-406. Cf. Jacob Burckhardt,GriechischeKulturge-
schichte,(reprintDarmstadt, I956), i. pp. 80-8I.
37 Epistles,VII 32sB; cf. Xen., Hell., 2.4.43; Arist., Const.,40.
38 The fourth-century legislative procedure by means of nomothetaicould
properlybe added to this list, see A. R. W. Harrison,"Law-Makingat Athens
at the End of the Fifth CenturyB.C.",3'our.Hell. Studies,lxxv (I955), pp. 26-35.
39 G. Vlastos, "Isonomia",Amer.3rour.Philology,lxxiv (I953), pp. 337-66.
Cf. Jones, Democracy,p. 52: "In general. . . democratstended like Aristotle
to regardthe laws as a code laid down once for all by a wise legislator . . . which,
immutable in principle, might occasionally require to be clarified or
supplemented". The "rule of law" is a complicatedsubject on its own, but it
is not the subjectof this paper. Nor is the evaluationof individualdemagogues,
e.g. Cleon, on whom see most recentlyA. G. Woodhead,"Thucydides'Portrait
of Cleon", Mnemosyne,4th ser., xiii (I960), pp. 289-3I7; A. Andrewes, "The
Mytilene Debate", to appearin a forthcomingissue of ThePhoenix.
40 "The History of Freedom in Antiquity", in Essayson Freedomand Power
ed. G. Himmelfarb,(London, I956), p. 64. The paradoxcan be extended: in
reviewing Grote, John Stuart Mill wrote about the years leading up to the
oligarchiccoups of 4II and 404: "The Athenian Many, of whose democratic
irritabilityand suspicion we hear so much, are ratherto be accused of too easy
and good-natured a confidence, when we reflect that they had living in the
midst of them the very men who, on the first show of an opportunity, were
ready to compass the subversion of the democracy....": Dissertationsand
Discussions,ii (London, I859), p. 540.

The ANNUAL CONFERENCEof the Past and Present

Societywill be held on Monday,g July I962 at Birkbeck
College,London.The subjectwill be:
Full details, with a reply form, are given on the leaflet
. . . < . ^

lnsertee ln thlS lssue.

* * *


PresentSocietywill be heldat the conclusionof the afternoon
sessionof the Conference.

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