Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going On Together

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9780691120959: Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going On Together

How do communities survive catastrophe? Using classical Athens as its case study, this book argues that if a democratic community is to survive over time, its people must choose to go on together. That choice often entails hardship and hard bargains. In good times, going on together presents few difficulties. But in the face of loss, disruption, and civil war, it requires tragic sacrifices and agonizing compromises.



Athenian Legacies demonstrates with flair and verve how the people of one influential political community rebuilt their democratic government, rewove their social fabric, and, through thick and thin, went on together. The book's essays address amnesty, civic education, and institutional innovation in early Athens, a city that built and lost an empire while experiencing plague, war, economic trauma, and civil conflict.


As Ober vividly demonstrates, Athenians became adept at collective survival. They conjoined a cultural commitment to government by the people with new institutions that captured the social and technical knowledge of a diverse population to recover from revolution, foreign occupation, and the ravages of war. Ober provides insight into notorious instances of Athenian injustice, explaining why slaves, women, and foreign residents willingly risked their lives to support a regime in which they were systematically mistreated. He answers the question of why Socrates never left a city he said was badly governed.


At a time when social scientists debate the cultural grounding necessary to foster democracy, Athenian Legacies advances new arguments about the role of diversity and the relevance of shared understanding of the past in creating democracies that flourish when the going gets rough.

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From the Inside Flap:

"This book is an inspiring achievement for both historians and citizens. A model of how to study antiquity, Athenian Legacies provides hope for the future of democratic practice and culture. It lays out clearly and concisely the political and ethical stakes of the discipline's questions and methodologies, fleshes out the conceptual content and stakes of Athenian institutions, and offers a theoretically rich picture not of how Athens came to be a democracy but of how it stayed a democracy."--Danielle Allen, University of Chicago

"Josiah Ober has a special skill of integrating historical studies with the large theoretical questions concerning the potentialities of a democratic regime. He does not imagine the simplistic imposition of ancient political practices in the contemporary world, but shows in imaginative ways the profound theoretical concerns that emerge from a careful investigation of the conditions and practices of ancient Athens in particular. The ancient world comes alive in Ober's works as a prism through which we can understand the current challenges of self-government."--Arlene W. Saxonhouse, University of Michigan

About the Author:

Josiah Ober is Constantine Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford. His books include "Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens, The Athenian Revolution, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens", and "A Company of Citizens", coauthored with Brook Manville.

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Josiah Ober
Published by Princeton University Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 0691120951 ISBN 13: 9780691120959
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Ober, Josiah
Published by Princeton University Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 0691120951 ISBN 13: 9780691120959
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