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Elite Politicians or Ordinary Citizens? Decree Making and Political Friendship in fifth-century Athens

Elite Politicians or Ordinary Citizens? Decree Making and Political Friendship in fifth-century... SummaryThis article aims to advance our understanding of Athenian politics through a quantitative study of the proposers of decrees in the Assembly during the fifth century BC. Based on the accounts of Greek historians, biographers and orators, scholars have traditionally envisioned Athenian politics as dominated by an elite whose members competed for power and prestige and controlled the Assembly through dynamics of political friendship. Recent studies of the decree proposers attested in the epigraphical and literary sources have questioned this model. They have shown that, at least during the fourth century, political initiative was not the prerogative of an elite but was rather widespread among ordinary citizens. Yet, the traditional, elite-centred view of Athenian politics is still widely supported among scholars working on the fifth-century democracy. This article challenges this view through a comparative study of the respective pictures of fifth-century decree proposing provided by the literary and epigraphical evidence. By means of statistical tests and analyses, it argues that, while wealth certainly gave elites an advantage in the Assembly through rhetorical training as well as an edge in the run for elective offices, Athenian democracy since the fifth century provided occasional proposers and ordinary citizens with significant pathways for exerting political agency. By reviewing the problematic evidence for the practice of proposing decrees through proxies, this study also shows that the significant level of popular participation attested in the observed data was not a by-product of political friendship, and that Athenian democracy since its early history encouraged models of political aggregation which could cut through friendship groups and enable forms of participation not limited to passively supporting one’s political leaders. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Klio de Gruyter

Elite Politicians or Ordinary Citizens? Decree Making and Political Friendship in fifth-century Athens

Klio , Volume 105 (2): 46 – Nov 1, 2023

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References (42)

Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
© 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
ISSN
2192-7669
eISSN
2192-7669
DOI
10.1515/klio-2022-0032
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

SummaryThis article aims to advance our understanding of Athenian politics through a quantitative study of the proposers of decrees in the Assembly during the fifth century BC. Based on the accounts of Greek historians, biographers and orators, scholars have traditionally envisioned Athenian politics as dominated by an elite whose members competed for power and prestige and controlled the Assembly through dynamics of political friendship. Recent studies of the decree proposers attested in the epigraphical and literary sources have questioned this model. They have shown that, at least during the fourth century, political initiative was not the prerogative of an elite but was rather widespread among ordinary citizens. Yet, the traditional, elite-centred view of Athenian politics is still widely supported among scholars working on the fifth-century democracy. This article challenges this view through a comparative study of the respective pictures of fifth-century decree proposing provided by the literary and epigraphical evidence. By means of statistical tests and analyses, it argues that, while wealth certainly gave elites an advantage in the Assembly through rhetorical training as well as an edge in the run for elective offices, Athenian democracy since the fifth century provided occasional proposers and ordinary citizens with significant pathways for exerting political agency. By reviewing the problematic evidence for the practice of proposing decrees through proxies, this study also shows that the significant level of popular participation attested in the observed data was not a by-product of political friendship, and that Athenian democracy since its early history encouraged models of political aggregation which could cut through friendship groups and enable forms of participation not limited to passively supporting one’s political leaders.

Journal

Kliode Gruyter

Published: Nov 1, 2023

Keywords: Athens; Democracy; Deliberation; Political Friendship; Political Participation

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