Ancient Greek political thought in practice


Ancient Greek political thought in practice

Paul Cartledge

(Key themes in ancient history)

Cambridge University Press, 2009

  • : hbk
  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references and index



Ancient Greece was a place of tremendous political experiment and innovation, and it was here too that the first serious political thinkers emerged. Using carefully selected case-studies, in this book Professor Cartledge investigates the dynamic interaction between ancient Greek political thought and practice from early historic times to the early Roman Empire. Of concern throughout are three major issues: first, the relationship of political thought and practice; second, the relevance of class and status to explaining political behaviour and thinking; third, democracy - its invention, development and expansion, and extinction, prior to its recent resuscitation and even apotheosis. In addition, monarchy in various forms and at different periods and the peculiar political structures of Sparta are treated in detail over a chronological range extending from Homer to Plutarch. The book provides an introduction to the topic for all students and non-specialists who appreciate the continued relevance of ancient Greece to political theory and practice today.


  • Timeline
  • 1. Meaning in context: how to write a history of Greek political thought
  • 2. The Greek invention of the polis, of politics and of the political
  • Narrative I. The Prehistoric and Protohistoric Greek World c.1300 BCE-c.750 BCE: 3. Rule by one: the politics of Homer, c.750 BCE
  • Narrative II. The Archaic Greek World, c.750-500 BCE: 4. Rule by some: the politics of Solon, c.600 BCE
  • 5. Rule by all: the Athenian revolution, c.500 BCE
  • Narrative III. The Classical Greek World I: c.500-400 BCE: 6. The human measure: the Greek invention of political theory, c.500-400 BCE
  • 7. The trial of Socrates, 399 BCE
  • Narrative IV. The Classical Greek World II: c.400-300 BCE: 8. Rule by one revisited: the politics of Xenophon, Plato, Isocrates, Aristotle - and Alexander the Great, c.400-330 BCE
  • Narrative V. The Hellenistic Greek World c.300-30 BCE: 9. (E)utopianism by design: the Spartan revolution, 244-221 BCE
  • Narrative VI. 'Graecia Capta' (Greece Conquered) c.146 BCE-CE 120: 10. The end of politics? The world of Plutarch, c.100 CE
  • 11. The Greek legacy and democracy today
  • Appendix I. Selected texts and documents
  • Appendix II. The 'Old Oligarch': a close reading.

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