Democracy is the most important original contribution to humanity, literally shaping public life, personal freedom, civil rights, education and intellectual advancement ever since, therefore forming the cornerstone of our modern ‘western’ civilization. Democracy first emerged in ancient Athens in 507 BC following a long turbulent period of aristocracy and tyranny, when a nexus of intertwined geopolitical, sociopolitical, economic, and cultural developments led to the morphogenesis of this new political constitution. Athenian Democracy formulated the political ideology and fundamental principles that were later canonized by modern democracies, formalized defensive mechanisms against undue concentration of power, and employed innovative integrative mechanisms to propagate its ideology and educate the citizens. Pathogenic traits-catalysts, however, such as the extreme polarization between mass and elite, demagogy, populism, failure of justice, apathy, and poor education caused extensive political ankylosis. Internal corrosion and changing historical conditions caused the decline and fall of Democracy three centuries later.
This seminar ventures an interdisciplinary investigation of ancient democracy (with special emphasis on the ancient Athenian democracy), its origins, history and evolution, rise and fall, and its diachronic legacy. This interdisciplinary survey will involve a complex multivariate approach and a challenging synthesis of diverse evidence, including ancient literary sources and testimonia (from translation), such as historical accounts and epigraphic evidence on the laws, principles, structure, organization and function of various democratic institutions, offices, and procedures; the archaeological record (monuments and finds); iconographical evidence in contemporary sculpture and vase-painting. Discussions will then focus on the diagnostic features, diachronic values, and political philosophy of democracy, statesmanship ethics and qualities, political integration mechanisms, pathology of democracy, and evaluation of the legacy and influence of ancient democracy on the modern democratic systems.
This course will only be offered in Greece at the Mycenaean Foundation and as part of the student study trip.