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Ancient Greece, especially Athens, provides the best documented early example of mass democracy. With the democratic reforms of the fifth century, populism – the direct mobilization of the masses – becomes an effective path to power. This chapter looks at several examples from fifth- and fourth-century Athens, which demonstrate the use of demagoguery as an efficient, if much derided, alternative to patronage-based politics. Ancient Rome provides a somewhat different context. As a republic, Rome gave the masses a more limited and indirect role in politics. Typically, politics was a purely elite affair. Yet for those elites who found the normal insider path blocked to them, direct appeals to the masses could prove effective. However, given the limited formal role for the plebs in Roman politics, this direct mobilization could often lead to violence.
This chapter explores Thucydides’ depiction of leadership in the Greek city states. For Thucydides, the association between leader and led is an essential determinant of the direction taken by a state; his text often explores the ways in which the thought and rhetoric of an individual are converted into the actions of a citizen group. Thucydides’ portrait of Pericles’ leadership is central to this question; the characteristics and behaviours that he embodies are replicated, with variations, in other political leaders who appear in the work. After analysing Thucydides’ representation of Pericles, therefore, this chapter goes on to discuss how other leaders in the work – Hermocrates, Archidamus and Brasidas – relate to this Periclean template.
This chapter argues that Thucydides’ History provides for its readers an opportunity to assess the limits and opportunities of diverse political regimes, particularly democracy, oligarchy and monarchy. In doing so, he offers insights not only into the specific characteristics of the cities that employ those regimes (Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes), but also into what is distinctive about those regime types, understood in categorical terms. The chapter focuses on Thucydides’ presentation of democracy in Athens and in Syracuse, arguing that Thucydides, although alert to the weaknesses of democracy, was also an admirer of the attainments and ambitions of this form of governance.
Chapter 5 takes up the work’s beginnings: why did Cicero choose Marcus Cornelius Cethegus as the first Roman orator? Appius Claudius Caecus made much more sense, and Cicero’s reasons for excluding Caecus from his canon tellingly reveal his literary-historical principles. The literary history presented ultimately justifies his own role as a literary historian and confirms his prejudices about the past, present, and future of oratory. His manicuring of the past emerges prominently in the perplexing “double history” of Greek oratory (26–51), which is a methodological template for Roman oratorical history, and in Ennius’ special place as a literary historian (57–9).
Dionysius of Halicarnassus discusses the Athenian funeral orations in his Antiquitates Romanae and his literary-critical essays. He takes a negative view of both the Athenian public funeral and of three specific examples of funeral orations –the Periclean epitaphios in Thucydides, Socrates’ speech in Plato’s Menexenus, and the funeral oration ascribed to Demosthenes (Dem. 60). The nature of his negative pronouncements suggests that his moral aversion to the orations, and to what the public funerals had represented, guided his aesthetic responses to the individual texts. While the encomiastic commonplaces on view in the funeral orations provide the blueprint for Dionysius’ idealised conception of Athens, the speeches themselves are vehicles unworthy of conveying those ideals. The case of the funeral oration offers a good illustration of how Dionysius’ classicism is inherently, recursively nostalgic and so ultimately chimerical. His idealised view of Athens is defined not by the funeral orations themselves, but by the valorisation of authors who made a project of berating their compatriots for failure to live up to the example, and exempla, of earlier generations.
Wonder is a key emotion to Shakespeare’s work as a whole, from first to last. Three principal sites of the evocation of wonder are discussed: in narrative, in character, and in language. Discussion of the first focuses on Shakespeare’s career-long interest in romance narratives of marvel, drawing on both ancient and popular traditions. These traditions inform Shakespeare’s writing from The Comedy of Errors through the last plays. In them marvellous events – especially involving recoveries and reunions – reveal a world unexpected in its amplitude, larger than human knowledge can easily understand. Audiences are encouraged to share this perception of the world-opening possibilities of poetry. Wonder experienced by characters provides an opportunity for audiences to examine closely the mechanics of the affect, and the attempts of persons to negotiate and emerge from it into knowledge. Wonder in language touches on Shakespeare’s characteristic extremity of rhetorical style, particularly his use of figures such as paradox, hyperbole, and catachresis. Altogether, this commitment to wonder reveals Shakespeare as a poet of an unclosed universe – one ever rich in possibility and the unexpected.
David M. Bergeron reminds us that, for over 150 years, scholars and critics have known about a performance of Pericles at the Jacobean court in Whitehall on 20 May 1619. For the past fifty years some scholars have claimed that the Duke of Lennox arranged for or sponsored this performance. Bergeron uncovers the basis of this idea. He argues that to understand fully the 1619 event, scholars, editors, and critics need to return to the original source, found in a letter from Gerrard Herbert, dated 24 May, rather than depend, as most have, on a nineteenth-century transcription of the letter. He wants to know how scholars have reached their conclusion about Lennox’s involvement and determine its accuracy. His approach, therefore, underscores the fundamental point that scholars cannot rely on transcriptions or printed summaries of earlier manuscript or archival material without checking the primary material. Bergeron returns to the original Herbert letter and offers a transcription of the feast and performance of Pericles as recorded by Herbert four days after the event. He concludes that Bentley’s assertion, prompted in part by his reliance on Chambers, does not rest on solid evidence.
Open warfare between Athens and the Peloponnesian League began in 431. Thucydides oscillates between two beginnings of the war, the Theban attack on Plataea in the spring and the Spartan invasion of Attica eighty days later. Archidamus analysis of the strengths of the Athenian position is hardly different from that of Pericles. During the Archidamian War there were five invasions, only hampered by Athenian cavalry who kept the light-armed away from the city itself. The longest invasion, in 430, lasted forty days, the shortest, in 425, lasted fifteen days. The invasions of 430 and 427 were said to be particularly damaging. National characters and institutions played their part in the way in which war policies were formed. The name of Plataea meant much for Spartan sentiment, and Archidamus made some attempt at a settlement on the basis of a Plataean return to neutrality.
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