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Athenian Democracy Refosunded: Xenophon’ss Political History in the Hellenika

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

This article aims to shed new light on the character of political history as written by Xenophon, by exploring the first two Books of the Hellenika, which, it is argued, implicity correct Thucydides’ judgment that the regime of the Five Thousand in Athens was the best Athenian regime during his lifetime. Thucydides and Xenophon thus appear to disagree about the best regime, a theme central to classical political philosophy. But when we consider Thucydides’ praise of this regime in light of Xenophon’s Socratic defence of traditional political authorities (especially as presented in Euryptolemus’ speech), we see that the two treatments complement each other. Xenophon’s endorsement of a regime rooted in traditional authorities protects the Socratic way of life, while Thucydides’ praise of a non-conventional regime endorses those conditions that make such a life possible.


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