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Chapter Three Thucydides. The Assembly and Democratic Deliberation

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Chapter Summary

Thucydides recognizes in the historical process the result of a process of deliberation: like any other human action, initiatives of warfare have to be decided on before they can be undertaken. In the peculiar political situation of the Greek poleis, and of Athens in particular, the assembly was the privileged forum for deliberation. Thucydides pays particular attention to lexical choice in describing the convocation, conduct and outcome of assemblies. In his scrupulous analysis of the mechanisms and contexts of deliberation, Thucydides deals with a problem that was close to his heart, namely correct deliberation: it is not enough to deliberate, one must "deliberate well", a formula that recurs frequently in the perorations. The reflection on effective deliberation is the predominant motif in the famous antilogy opposing the orators Cleon and Diodotus in the assembly called to decide the fate of the inhabitants of Mytilene.

Keywords: Athens; Cleon; democratic deliberation; Diodotus; Mytilene; Thucydides



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