EBG, Chapter Three

Two warnings: 1. This post may contain spoilers. 2. This post may contain images of insects. Caveat lector!

Summary

The heart of culture, he told himself. The wonder of the civilised world. The democratic Assembly of Collegium. (40)

In this short chapter, Stenwold makes a further attempt to warn the Collegium Assembly of the Wasp threat to the Lowlands.

Character introductions

This chapter is mainly just Stenwold speechifying, so not a whole lot of new character stuff, but there is first mention of ‘old’ Lineo Thadspar, Speaker for the Assembly. We also meet Helmess Broiler; he’s not very clearly delineated yet, but he does grow into a character I love to hate, and I hadn’t remembered that he popped up here. Apparently Broiler was initially introduced in a later book, but was usefully stuck in as Stenwold’s opposing speaker here when Tchaikovsky added this chapter at quite a late stage.

As an aside, I love his name; ‘broiler’ is pretty great in the lesser-used sense of one who agitates or stirs up confusions and quarrels.

Political analysis

On a first reading, I thought this chapter mainly reiterated and filled in details about the Lowland polities and the Wasp expansion, as discussed in Chapter One. Stenwold repeats information he has tried to make the Masters take notice of before, in the process giving the reader a quick geography lesson: the cities of Maynes, Szar and Myna are to the east, the Commonweal of the Dragonflies is to the north, and the Wasps have successfully fought all of them. (41, 42) What Stenwold guessed would happen seventeen years ago has, more or less, come to pass – huge and relentless expansion into these places, even if the Empire’s attention has not yet turned to the Lowlands proper. He also gives them the urgent update that the Empire have signed a treaty with the Commonweal that grants them control of three huge principalities there. (43) Now that they are no longer distracted by the Dragonflies, Stenwold tells the assembled Masters, the Wasps are coming for them.

There is more politically interesting stuff going on than that, though. The bulk of the chapter is taken up with opposing accounts of the Wasp Empire’s recent history and political nature, from Stenwold and from others members of the Assembly. These differing interpretations are simultaneously part of a more general conflict – there’s a sense it’s been chewed over in the Assembly well before the Wasps showed up – over whether or not Collegium should engage in military intervention.

Stenwold’s version of Wasp expansion is one of repressive rule, slavery, and coercive conscription. (41) He depicts their war against the Dragonflies as mass slaughter, ‘a war on a scale unprecedented’ where the Wasp Empire ‘have swum in the blood of the Commonweal.’ (42, 43) It is not simply that they have previously engaged in wars, however, even inhumane ones. Stenwold asks,

‘Has the Empire put down the sword and taken up the plough? Has the Empire turned to books and learning, or the betterment of its poor and its slaves?’ (43)

and his answer is that no, of course they haven’t:

‘For, I tell you, the Empire is not an Ant city-state where the citizens can all take up arms and fight if they must, be they soldier or farmer or artisan. The Empire is a great nation where every man is a warrior and nothing else. The work, the labour, the harvests and the craft, they leave for their slaves. There is not a man of the Empire who is not also a man of their army, and what can they do with such an immense force save to use it?’ (44)

The society itself is structured for war and both uninterested in and incapable of peace. This, Stenwold argues, is why it’s absolutely Collegium’s problem; dealing with them is not an abstract humanitarian intervention, but a fight for the survival of their own democratic way of life:

‘I do not think,’ he said, ‘that you’re likely to endure many more of my speeches, Masters. I do not foresee a future where any of us will have liberty for such polite debate.’ (41)

I think that Stenwold should have been much more explicit here in referring to Collegium’s own history. (He is an historian by profession, even!) The Assembly should be strongly ideologically opposed to empires based on the labour of slaves, because their own civilisation sprang from a slave rebellion against just such an empire. He could argue that their own most significant inheritance is the principle of fighting for liberty against tyranny, closely followed by their dedication to ‘books and learning’ and the ‘betterment’ of the population. Compared to his thundering criticism of the very people he’s trying to convince (more on which below), his tight, ironic statement that the Wasp Empire are working for the negation of Collegium’s democratic principles seems like a misjudged use of understatement.

Stenwold’s failure to fully deploy this narrative of natural ideological opposition and a freedom-fighting past is only highlighted by the nature of his opponents’ arguments. His memories of these from past debates are, I think, worth quoting at length:

He tells us they are fighting again, but that is their business. When the Ants of Kes land a force ashore and march on the walls of Tark, Collegium does not raise a voice. Why should we? Some kinden are warlike and therefore fight each other.

‘Master Maker tells us that we should beware them because they are an empire, and no mere city-state, and so seeks to frighten us with semantics. If the Mantids of Felyal decided to call themselves an empire, would we suddenly be tasked to descend upon them with sword and crossbow?’

[…] ‘And Master Maker also tells us they are fighting the Commonweal,’ the magnate had continued, all those years ago. ‘And I say to that, so what and let them!’ (They had cheered, back then, at this.) ‘What do we know of the Empire, beyond Master Maker’s ravings? We know that they are Apt and industrious, like us. We know that they have built a strongly governed state of many kinden, with none of the internal strife that beggars relations within the Lowlands. Are we, who claim to prize civilization, meant to despise them for theirs? We know that their merchants receive our goods avidly. Those of us with interests in Helleron and Tark know they will buy dear and sell cheap, when they know no better.’ (Laughter) ‘And what do we know of the Commonweal? We know that they do not receive our emissaries, that they forbid any airship over their borders, that they have neither artificers nor engineers no anything but a moribund and backward society of tilling peasants. We know that they will not even deal with our merchants, not at any price, that they would rather see grain rot in their fields than sell. All this we know, and can we really know the cause of the quarrel between these so-different people? What have the people of the Commonweal done to lay claim to our love, that we should turn on those that seem like our close brothers in contrast?’ (42-3)

Multiple points are interwoven in this passage. First, the magnate refers to Collegium’s practice, perhaps even tradition, of neutrality in Lowlands wars; this sets up an alternative set of principles to those I suggested above, where war has an air of inevitability and it is not Collegium’s business to intervene. Presumably the concrete reference to Kes marching on Tark brings to mind earlier, successful arguments about leaving the Ants to it, which makes leaving the Wasps to it seem consistent and justifiable.

Stenwold is implicitly critical of such indifference (‘you listened politely, and said, ‘But what is this to do with us?’ Foreigners will fight, you said,’ 41), but he does not argue against non-intervention in principle, instead choosing to stress the differences between the Empire and the Ant city-states. Such a contrast is (or rather, was) dismissed by the magnate as ‘semantics’, and interestingly he makes a further, historically rich comparison that serves to undermine them as a threat. That the Wasps call themselves an empire does not make them inherently dangerous; the Mantis-kinden, if they wanted, could do the same. But whilst one might expect Beetles to be suspicious of such a move, given their experience in the Bad Old Days, the magnate’s argument is precisely that those days are past, and the Mantids, belonging to them, are no longer a threat. In this way the cultural associations of ‘the yoke of an empire’ are rendered harmless. Descending on the Mantids of Felyal would be an irrelevance and an imposition, even if they could easily be beaten; the same could be said of the Wasps.

The rhetorical association of the Wasps with backwardness continues in the dismissive statement about their trading abilities (‘they will buy dear and sell cheap, when they know no better’): how can they be a threat when Beetles can outwit them? Broiler reprises this theme:

‘They are certainly a vital pack of barbarians, it’s true. I believe they’ve made great inroads towards becoming a civilized nation recently. They have a government, and taxes, and even their own currency, although I understand their merchants prefer to deal in our coin.’ (45)

Yet whilst naturally inferior to Beetles, Wasps are simultaneously portrayed in these statements as much like them. They are ‘Apt and industrious‘, engaged in trade and diplomacy, with ‘a strongly governed state of many kinden‘ – a people easily legible to Collegium, sympathetic and even admirable, ‘our close brothers’. Back in the present, Broiler takes this appeal to civilisational vanity even further:

‘They recognize the central role we play in our turbulent Lowlands. They wish to know us better, to trade and prosper alongside us. Perhaps they will seek our guidance, like a young student come to learn from the old master.’ (46)

In these ways, the Wasps couldn’t be less like the Commonweal. Where the Wasps are Apt, industrious, and interested in commerce, the Commonweal is Inapt, backwards, and inefficient. (There’s a hint here, perhaps, that land not used productively is little better than terra nullius; the Wasps would use it better than a state that ‘would rather see grain rot in their fields than sell,’ and might therefore have more right to it.) [1] Most of all, where the Wasps ‘come with trade, and an open hand,’ (46) the Commonweal is closed to Collegium in every way, holding them in disdain (according to Broiler, 45) and offering them no benefit.

And here we see, through Stenwold’s memory, that any gestures towards principled non-intervention in the guise of cultural relativism – ‘Are we, who claim to prize civilization, meant to despise them for theirs?’ – are disingenuous. Stenwold does not stop at accusing the Assembly of indifference. He makes the (rather impolitic) choice to castigate them for their complicity in suffering the Wasps have caused.

‘No, you tell me! You with your mercantile interests in Helleron, you tell me how many swords you have forged for the Empire! Tell me of the crossbow bolts, the firepowder, the automotive components, the engine parts, the flier designs, the tanks of fuel and the casks of airship gas that you have sold to them at your costly prices! Tell me of the men you have met with and talked money, and never asked why they might need such vast stocks of arms!’ (44)

Finally, beyond complicity as a byproduct of profiting, we see intentional complicity in the person of Helmess Broiler. He counters Stenwold’s version of the Wasp Empire’s recent history, arguing that their first wars were of self-defence. (45, 46) Trying to frame the Wasps’ attack on the Commonweal as a pre-emptive strike, he at first insinuates reasonable doubt (‘what do we truly know of those causes?’, 45), then implies that the Wasps are plucky Davids to the Commonweal Goliath, and finally slips into a far more supportive vein (‘I have no doubt that if they wished to drive the Commonweal back, it was because such a brooding state on the Empire’s very borders was cause for great concern,’ 45, my italics). Yet at the same time as arguing that the Wasp use of violence has been justified, he is clear that violence against them is not. In a brilliant executed redirect, Stenwold, not the Empire, is characterised as the warmonger:

‘Oh, they have their soldiers and their armies […] but there is only one possible reason they should turn them against us! It is because some fool here fires us up into a warlike fury against them! […] Master Maker wishes to make his own prophecies come true by turning us against men who want only our recognition and support!’ (46-7)

There is thus an undertone of threat to his speech that pushes it beyond indifference into appeasement (and as we will we see later, towards treason). At the end of the chapter, Stenwold walks out, judging that the Assembly is no longer arguing in good faith.

Historical analysis

This chapter does a lot of telling about political developments, but in the meantime it also hints at the workings of the Assembly. Arguments about when or if military intervention is justified, not to mention the ethics and legality of arms dealing, have a fascinating history of their own, [2] but the comparison I’ll focus on in this chapter refers rather to the setting in which those arguments take place.

Democracy in Collegium

They muttered and moaned as he took the rostrum. These middle-aged merchants, the old College masters, men and women robed in white, reclining comfortably on the stepped stone seats of the Amphiophos. (40)

Collegium politics is not an exact match for any historical example, and the combination of details appears deliberately anachronistic (as of course many remixes of history in the Shadows of the Apt books are). In some ways it might best be compared to medieval and early modern city-states, and indeed my sense of Collegium in general is that it resembles northern European merchant cities, for example of the Dutch Republic. For other elements, most notably the full political inclusion of women, one would have to look even later. Yet no one can talk about democracy without reference to Athens and other ancient city-states, so that will be my starting point for discussing ‘the democratic Assembly of Collegium’. [3] 

The study of ancient Greek democracy focuses most of all on Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE; it is from here that the most detailed and varied sources survive, though historians such as Robinson argue that this should not blind us to its existence in other, contemporaneous Greek cities. [4] I will therefore attempt a brief overview of the basic character of Athenian democracy, although its workings were not static through this period. [5]

Democracy in Athens is usually dated from the reforms of Kleisthenes in 508/507, although a leader named Solon, several decades earlier, had introduced some important elements such as democratic juries and selection of officials by lot. Following the overthrow of the tyrants, Kleisthenes fundamentally reworked the institutions and organisation of Athenian politics: ‘The people having taken control of affairs, Cleisthenes was their leader and was head of the people.’ [6] The people, that is, the demos, were now meant to be the source of power, rather than the old aristocratic families. To this end, Kleisthenes divided the population into ten new phylai or ‘tribes’, organised not by class or region but by a rather abstract geography (and later, if citizens moved away from their initial demes or village, by inherited belonging). Registration in the deme was the source of citizenship, and therefore the basis of political organisation. It is worth noting that Athens had an atypically large population for an ancient city-state, and that those who lived in the city itself were a minority at perhaps a fifth of the total population of Attica. We don’t yet know anything comparable about the citizenship status of the rural population surrounding Collegium.

thorleymap pxiii

Demes were grouped into trittyes, which were clustered three at a time into the ten tribes. This somewhat complicated system meant that citizens from different areas (the coast, the inland countryside and the city itself) were made part of the same tribe, and presumably helped to stitch together the demos as a whole. Map from Thorley, Athenian Democracy, p.xiii.

Building on this reorganisation, Kleisthenes also reworked Athenian political institutions. An executive council of 500, the Boule, was made up of 50 citizens from each tribe, all over the age of 30. Service on the Boule was a paid position for most of the fifth and fourth centuries, but Kleisthenes’ reforms did involve a property qualification which would have excluded more than half of Athenian citizens from serving. Service was for one year, and a citizen could serve two non-consecutive terms across his (and it was always his) lifetime. Each group of 50, called a prytaneis, acted in turn as a standing committee which took charge of the Boule for a period of 36 days. The main purpose of the Boule seems to have been, firstly, to prepare the agenda for discussion in the Assembly (including by voting on preliminary decrees or probouleumata), and secondly to implement policy based on decisions made in the Assembly.

The Assembly or ekklesia was the central institution of Athenian democracy, where citizens could discuss and vote on policies covering all areas of Athenian life. In the fourth century, it met an obligatory forty times per year, with each meeting beginning early in the morning and lasting until perhaps lunchtime. Sessions of the ekklesia were usually held on a hill near the Agora called the Pnyx, and in the open air. The Pnyx was a kind of auditorium, and its rebuilding three times in the fifth and fourth centuries have made understanding the details of its layout at any particular point more difficult for archaeologists. The basic layout, however, was of at least a few rows of rock-cut seats (there were perhaps also wooden benches) extended in a semi-circle around the bema or speaker’s platform. [7]

Travlos fig 599.png

Diagram from John Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (London, 1971), p. 475.

The Collegium Assembly meets in the Amphiophos, where Masters sit on ‘stepped stone seats’ facing a rostrum; it’s not clear if this is an open-air meeting place, but I suspect it would be under the same kind of translucent cloth roof as the Prowess Forum. Amphiophos is an interesting sort-of-Greek neologism, a compound of amphi, ‘both sides’ and phos, ‘light’, metaphorically perhaps something like knowledge or reason. So the meeting place of the Assembly is meant to have ‘light on both sides’, a testament to the value Collegium places on debate between equals. This reminds me a little bit of the Athenian emphasis on isegoria, which I will return to below.

In other respects, how did the ekklesia compare to the Collegium Assembly? Firstly, the ekklesia was a much larger affair. ‘All adult male Athenian citizens were entitled to attend the ekklesia, to address the people and to vote on the proposals. A decision made by the ekklesia was in theory a decision made by all Athenians.’ [8] Normal attendance numbered perhaps 6000, a far cry from the Collegium Assembly’s total of ‘four hundred and forty-nine men and women’. (Dragonfly Falling, 190) Furthermore, Collegium Assemblers ‘were elected by a vote of the city, meaning anyone of age born there, or who could acquire honorary citizenship’ (DF, 299) – at least, some of them are, because other passages suggest that at least some staff of the Great College have an automatic right to take part in the Assembly without election. (for example, DF, 190) In contrast, the most curious thing about Athenian democracy from a modern point of view is its direct character. Although elections for specific offices were not unknown, the Athenian Assembly was not an elected body of the demos, but rather the demos itself. Hansen suggests that the best modern parallel (as political meetings attended by thousands of people, all of whom have the right to vote) are the Swiss Landsgemeinde. The indirect character of the Collegium Assembly is not approximated in either the Boule, which was selected by lot, or the ekklesia, involving no selection amongst citizens beyond who was able to attend on a given day.

Because of this character, Collegium democracy, in ancient Greek political theory, might not be considered a democracy at all. To examine this further, I’m going to take a brief detour into Aristotle’s thinking on democratic constitutions.

Aristotle on democracy, oligarchy and aristocracy

Aristotle lived as a metic in fourth century Athens, and one of the things he tried to do in his Politics, with reference to his home and to other Greek polis, was to classify and critique possible constitutions. [9] Characteristically, he did this according to a few different typologies, reworking his initial sixfold classification extensively and focusing on gradations of oligarchy and democracy. [10]

Oligarchy is initially introduced as the deviant form of rule by the few, and democracy as the deviant form of rule by the many, but Aristotle then clarifies that oligarchy is rather, or perhaps also, the rule of the wealthy (who tend to be few) and democracy the rule of the poor (who are typically numerous):

There is a democracy when the free-born and poor control the government, being at the same time a majority; and similarly there is an oligarchy when the rich and better-born control the government, being at the same time a minority. [11] 

Already, then, we run into problems with classifying Collegium. The free-born and poor, the majority of the population, control the government insofar as there is universal suffrage. Yet at the same time, only a minority of the population are Assemblers, and those elected are de facto ‘the rich and better-born’ (although we don’t know if there is a formal property qualification, so this might match the norm in Athens that the wealthy were, in practice, the political leaders). To further complicate the picture, the staff of the College, who also sit in the Assembly, might fit Aristotle’s definition of aristocracy, where political participation is based on merit, or excellence of mind and character; this is presumably the basis upon which the College Masters are given political power. (Although given his snootiness about mechanical workers, Aristotle might not have agreed that a constitution where artificers like Stenwold could be respected figures counted as an aristocracy. [12]) Collegium therefore contains aspects of multiple constitutional forms.

In fact, this is not antithetical to Aristotle’s thinking. In keeping with his argument that the most stable (and therefore the best) constitution would be moderate and mixed, Aristotle places oligarchy and democracy on a spectrum. ‘The best kind of democracy is one which does not allow everyone indiscriminately to take part in political affairs, while the best kind of oligarchy is one which has only a moderate property qualification. There is, it appears, very little difference between the best kind of oligarchy and the best kind of democracy.’ [13] Confusingly, he also argues that constitutional government or ‘polity’ combines the best aspects of the two, and that polity is not very different from aristocracy. He can therefore state that

the method appropriate to an aristocracy or a ‘constitutional government’ [polity] is to take one element from one form of constitution and another from the other – that is to say, to take from oligarchy the practice of choosing office-holders by voting, and from democracy the practice of requiring no property qualification. [14]

This accords at least roughly with the constitution of Collegium. Although the Assembly is not an Athenian-style democracy, this would not necessarily seem a bad thing to Aristotle; it is more like a moderate oligarchy with indispensable democratic elements. [15] This doesn’t adduce for us the best specific historical comparison for the institutions of Collegium, but it does tell us that it is comprehensible within the world of the polis as Aristotle described it.

Isegoria and the citizen politician

Nonetheless, although Collegium is a much less radical democracy than ancient Athens, the workings of the ekklesia do have resonance for the Collegium Assembly as we see it in this chapter. Athens did not have politicians in the modern sense, and Hansen suggests that the closest contemporary equivalent was to be found in the set phrase ‘rhetores kai strategoi’, or ‘orators and generals’. [16] The orator was someone who voluntarily addressed the public, including in the ekklesia, and more narrowly meant a citizen who moved a decree or proposed a law. They were significant figures in a polity without a chief executive or head of state. [17] In Athens, the one who moved a decree was held responsible for this initiative, and if it were later decided to be unconstitutional then they alone were punished for it. The political ideal was an ordinary citizen who was moved only on occasion to speak or to act. As it is described in a speech by Aischines:

For in oligarchies it is not he who wishes, but he who is in authority, that addresses the people; whereas in democracies he speaks who chooses, and whenever it seems to him good. And the fact that a man speaks only at intervals marks him as a man who takes part in politics because of the call of the hour, and for the common good; whereas to leave no day without its speech, is the mark of a man who is making a trade of it, and talking for pay. [18]

There seems to be an element of this ideology in Collegium. As far as I can tell, there is no single executive figure; the Assembly is the sovereign body, and those in the Assembly are not professional politicians but merchants or academics who are also but not primarily political actors. The frequency of Stenwold’s speeches is therefore somewhat suspect, although he perhaps sees the Wasp threat as a single ‘call of the hour’ that has lasted many years. As in the ekklesia, I suspect that Assemblers in Collegium vote as individuals without party affiliation, and may vote in different groups depending on the policy. [19] It is unclear whether they receive pay for their role in the Assembly, as those attending the ekklesia did from the mid-fifth century, though this would clearly make it more accessible to the bulk of citizens.

In Athens, speeches were often written in advance and then delivered with or without notes, because open discussion was naturally not possible in an assembly of thousands. In theory citizens who were not giving speeches listened in silence and voted on proposals (by raising their hands) without discussion amongst themselves, but in practice this probably never occurred: Hansen suggests cheers, laughter and heckling were common. [20] We see a loosely comparable etiquette in the smaller Collegium Assembly. It seems to be normal that there is plenty of murmuring and heckling, but speeches are by one person at a time at the rostrum, and interruption by Stenwold when Broiler is speaking leads to ‘frantic gestures’ from the Speaker. (46) The Speaker invites Stenwold to make his speech, but he also invites a reply. (41, 44) In Athens, the Herald would ask ‘who wishes to speak?’, and Thadspar similarly opens the floor:

‘Well, Masters, it is a weighty gauntlet that Master Maker has cast down before us […] Will someone take this gauntlet up?’ (44)

It is even possible that non-Assemblers are allowed to speak. Stenwold makes the following remark:

‘Fourteen years ago,’ he called out, ‘I made my first speech here before you, not even a Master then, but just a precocious artificer who would not be silent.’ (41)

If he was not a Master, then as I understand it he did not have the right to sit in the Assembly as part of the College. Nonetheless, he was allowed to give a speech, perhaps by invitation. A form of isegoria does therefore seem to apply in Collegium, though not all citizens vote in the Assembly.

In this post I have made mainly procedural and institutional comparisons with ancient Athens. Although, as I have shown, in many ways Athenian democracy operated very differently to the Collegium version, I think that these kinds of comparisons are useful for making us think harder about how politics works in a particular system. This chapter teaches us a fair amount about the Collegium Assembly, but I still have a lot of questions about representation, legislation, executive power and so on that I hope later scenes will help to answer. In particular, because Stenwold leaves abruptly, we do not see how action is taken after speeches are given. The ‘how’ of politics is not, however, the whole story. According to Aristotle, the point of the city-state was not mere survival or the accumulation of wealth, but the attempt to live the good life, a life of virtuous activity. [21] One suspects that idealists in Collegium, including Stenwold, would be inclined to agree with this argument. But the Aristotelian good life was a life of leisure, ultimately relying on the labour of slaves and other non-citizens and absolutely not achievable by all. Collegium, having abolished slavery, aims at a more universally achievable good life, and it is this project that Stenwold seeks to protect from the Wasps.


Page references within the text refer to the 2012 Tor editions of Empire in Black and Gold and Dragonfly Falling.

Footnotes

[1] I’m thinking here especially of German expansion to the East, wherein ‘polnische Wirtschaft’ was sometimes invoked (at various times in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries) as a justification for German control of the land. Two books touching on this are David Blackbourn, The Conquest Of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (London, 2007) and Robert Nelson (ed.), Germans, Poland, and Colonial Expansion to the East: 1850 Through the Present (Basingstoke, 2009).

[2] On this topic, one could do much worse than to start with the entries and bibliographies in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Armed Humanitarian Intervention and Just War Theory.

[3] In addition to the works cited below, my thinking has been shaped by a number of wider-ranging works on city-states and democracy: Robert Griffeth and Carol Thomas (eds.), The City-State in Five Cultures (Oxford, 1981); Mogens Herman Hansen (ed.), A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures (Copenhagen, 2000); François Herzog, ‘The City and The Democratic Ideal,’ History Today 44 (February 1994), pp. 36-42; Benjamin Isakhan and Stephen Stockwell (eds.), The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy (Edinburgh, 2012); Geoffrey Parker, Sovereign City: The City-State Through History (London, 2004). I suspect I will write about other potential historical comparisons for the Assembly in relation to later chapters.

[4] Eric W. Robinson, Democracy Beyond Athens: Popular Government in the Greek Classical Age (Cambridge, 2011), especially Chapter 5.

[5] For this section I have relied on beginner-friendly secondary sources, in particular the excellent Stoa resource, C. W. Blackwell (ed.), Dēmos: Classical Athenian Democracy, available at stoa.org/projects/demos/home; Mogens Herman Hansen, The Athenian Assembly in the Age of Demosthenes (Oxford 1987); and John Thorley, Athenian Democracy (Abingdon, 2004), 2nd edition. M. I. Finley, Democracy Ancient and Modern (London, 1973) and P.J. Rhodes, Ancient Democracy and Modern Ideology (London, 2007) are both short works that compare Athenian democracy to its modern forms, and helped me to better understand how the details fitted together. In terms of primary sources, [Aristotle], Athenian Constitution, trans. H. Rackham (London, 1952) is both detailed and fascinating and is available in a handy online edition here.

[6] Athenian Constitution, 20.4. For a focus on the birth of Athenian democracy as a ‘collective act of political self-definition’, rather than the actions of one man, see Josiah Ober, ‘The Athenian Revolution of 508/507 BC: Violence, Authority, and the Origins of Democracy,’ in P.J. Rhodes (ed.), Athenian Democracy (Edinburgh, 2004), pp. 260-286.

[7] Homer A. Thompson, ‘The Pnyx in Models,’ Hesperia Supplements, 19 (1982), pp. 133-147, 224-227.

[8] Hansen, The Athenian Assembly, p. 6.

[9] I have used the Oxford World Classics version of the Politics, translated Ernest Barker, revised R.F. Stalley (Oxford, 1995), but have provided Bekker numbers for easy cross-referencing with other translations.

[10] The sixfold classification is elaborated in Aristotle, Politics, pp. 99-101, 1279a22-1279b10. My understanding of constitutional typology in the Politics is particularly indebted to Mogens Herman Hansen, Reflections on Aristotle’s Politics (Copenhagen, 2013), Chapter 1 and Chapter 8; I have also referred especially to Edward Clayton, ‘Aristotle: Politics’ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed at iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/.

[11] Aristotle, Politics, p. 141, 129b18-21.

[12] Ibid., pp.95-6, 1277b33-1278a25.

[13] Stalley, ‘Introduction’ in ibid., p. xxv.

[14] Ibid., p. 154, 1294b10-12.

[15] For further discussion of selection and appointment of political office in mixed constitution, see ibid., pp. 167-175, 1298a33-1300b4.

[16] Hansen, The Athenian Assembly, p. 50.

[17] Barry Strauss, ‘The Classical Greek polis and its Government,’ in Hans Beck (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Greek Government (Chichester, 2013), p. 37.

[18] Quoted Hansen, The Athenian Assembly, p. 61.

[19] Ibid., p. 85.

[20] Ibid., pp. 69-71.

[21] e.g., Aristotle, Politics, pp. 104-6, 1280b6-1281a10.


If you would like to discuss this chapter or any of the points I’ve raised here further, please do leave a comment!

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