The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates

The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates

The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates

The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates


History, political philosophy, and constitutional law were born in Athens in the space of a single generation--the generation that lived through the Peloponnesian War (431-404 b.c.e.). This remarkable age produced such luminaries as Socrates, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and the sophists, and set the stage for the education and early careers of Plato and Xenophon, among others. "The School of History" provides the fullest and most detailed intellectual and political history available of Athens during the late fifth century b.c.e., as it examines the background, the context, and the decisive events shaping this society in the throes of war. This expansive, readable narrative ultimately leads to a new understanding of Athenian democratic culture, showing why and how it yielded such extraordinary intellectual productivity.

As both a source and a subject, Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War is the central text around which the narrative and thematic issuesof the book revolve. Munn re-evaluates the formation of the Greek historiographical tradition itself as he identifies the conditions that prompted Thucydides to write--specifically the historian's desire to guide the Athenian democracy as it struggled to comprehend its future.

"The School of History "fully encompasses recent scholarship in history, literature, and archaeology. Munn's impressive mastery of the huge number of sources and publications informs his substant


With the offices of leadership and the instruments and symbols of power at Athens in the hands of a large and comparatively affluent aristocracy, it was perplexing to outsiders and annoying to many of the Athenian elite that political power at Athens was ultimately not in their control. Among the conservative oligarchies that dominated much of Greece outside of Athens, only individuals with a certain measure of real property could share in government. But even the poorest Athenians, the thetes, had long-established rights of participation in sovereign deliberative assemblies and jury-courts, and the political self-assertion of this class was greatly encouraged by the growth of the Athenian maritime empire over the middle decades of the fifth century.

Sovereignty in all matters lay with the Athenian demos, the forty to sixty thousand adult male citizens (whose numbers, after 431, were being whittled away by war and intermittent plague). The votes of the majority in the Assembly dictated the tasks to be carried out by the officers of the state . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.