Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens

Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens

Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens

Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens

Excerpt

I had two purposes in writing this book and two overlapping audiences in mind. To professional students -- of ancient Greece, of political theory, of rhetorical theory -- the book presents a new argument on a crucial part of the core literature of classical Athens and on a crucial moment in the early development of rhetorical and political thought: I attempt to explain how Athenian political thinkers, above all Thucydides, Plato, and Demosthenes, understood rhetoric as a means of effective political discourse. In spite of the intrinsic complexities involved in presenting an argument on this subject, I have also aimed to make the book accessible to as wide a readership as possible. Students of other disciplines, nonprofessional students of all kinds, and educated members of the public have reason to know the views of public discourse, the public space, mass communication, and the goals of political existence that were advanced by ancient Athenians and that are scrutinized here. Beyond the sheer challenge and enjoyment of the task, studying ancient Greek literature still serves a great purpose: to inform ourselves of ideas, of ways of thinking, arguing, and speaking that assist our self-understanding and our various endeavors and yet are not available to us from anywhere else.

To address the two audiences simultaneously presents difficulties, but requires no compromises: only the form of the book is affected (and that not greatly); the substance remains what it would be in any case. All ancient texts are translated. Jargon and technical terms are kept to a minimum, which should benefit all readers. The few technical terms that remain, mostly key Greek words, are quickly explained, easily . . .

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