Abstract: This article argues against the assumption that Athenian political practice involved an evaluative distinction between terms signifying the good “statesman” and the bad “demagogue.” Terms now translated “demagogue” are used by Aristophanes, Thucydides, and other Athenian orators and historians in a neutral, or even positive, sense. Instead, the evaluative distinction is built by Plutarch out of Platonic analysis, Aristotelian vocabulary, and the Thucydidean classification of Athenian politicians. The article concludes with reflections on the context of Moses Finley’s classic analysis of Athenian demagogues, and on the implications of the argument for political practice and thinking today.
Journal of the History of Ideas – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: May 4, 2012
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