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The Problem of the Partheniae in Aristotle’s Political Thought

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

This article examines Aristotle’s discussion of the Spartan revolt of the Partheniae in Politics V.7. Aristotle appears to use the Partheniae as examples of two sources of instability within so-called aristocracies, but the analysis of this case raises delicate interpretive issues. Sections I–III draw upon surviving accounts of the Parthenian revolt from Antiochus, Ephorus and Myron of Priene in order to illuminate the significance of this example for Aristotle’s ethical and political thought. Section IV reconstructs the state of the Spartan constitution around the time of the revolt in order to understand what Aristotle might have thought about what precipitated the revolt. This article argues that generational politics is at stake in the revolt, and Section V locates the revolt’s politics within its broader historical and cultural context. In the end, this article finds that Aristotle may have intended to leave the interpretation of this example ambiguous due to his own unresolved views towards the politics at stake in this revolt.


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