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Autochthonous Autocrats: The Tyranny Of The Athenian Democracy

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Chapter Summary

The purpose of this chapter is to explore why, in Aristotle's eyes, the fifth-century democracy of Athens could have resembled a tyranny. In official discourse, the Athenian democracy of the fifth century construed itself as a rejection of tyranny - and,more specifically, as a reaction to the autocratic rule of the Pisistratid family which lasted from around the middle of the sixth century down to 510 BCE. The autocratic pedigree of the Athenian democracy and the ambiguous tension that this generated are encapsulated in the mythical figure of Theseus. Aristophanes is also a valuable source for the theme of democratic deception. Athens seems to have adopted a similar strategy once it found itself at the head of a hegemonic league which consisted primarily of city-states that professed an Ionian heritage.

Keywords: Aristophanes; Aristotle's eyes; Athenian democracy; democratic deception



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