Standing up to the Demos: Plutarch, Phocion and the democratic life

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Abstract / Description of output

Plutarch wrote twenty-three Greek Lives in his series of Parallel Lives-of these, ten were devoted to Athenians. Since Plutarch shared the hostile view of democracy of Polybius and other Hellenistic Greeks, this Athenian preponderance could have been a problem for him. But Plutarch uses these men's handling of the democracy and especially the demos as a way of gaining insight into the character and capability of his protagonists. This chapter reviews Plutarch's attitude to Athenian democracy and examines the way a statesman's character is illuminated by his interaction with the demos. It also considers what it was about Phocion that so appealed to Plutarch, first by looking at his relationship with the democracy and then at the way he evokes the memory of Socrates. For him this was not a minor figure, but a man whose life was representative of the problems of Athenian democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Hellenistic Reception of Classical Athenian Democracy and Political Thought
EditorsMirko Canevaro, Ben Gray
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780198748472
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2018


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