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‘And You, The Demos, Made An Uproar’: Performance, Mass Audiences And Text In The Athenian Democracy

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Chapter Summary

The Greek world was a world of open-air gatherings, festivals, processions and performances. It is not only performances that are missing, but part of the very character of Athenian democracy. In this paper, the author addresses the following issue: while we should certainly take into account the insights drawn from study of the inscriptions, some claims seem to present an exaggeratedly contemporary image. Was politics in Athens driven by speeches and assemblies - as would appear from so much of our evidence - or by formalized written record and a bureaucracy reminiscent of modern administrative practice? Or a bit of both? The paper's primary purpose is to show the extent of the noise, hubbub, laughter and generally energetic audience participation in the mass citizen gatherings of the fifth and fourth century. The context of written records include that of the fluidity of day-to-day politics and the performances in the mass democratic assemblies.

Keywords: Assembly; Athenian democracy; Demosthenes; laughter; literacy; mass audiences; performances; written records



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