The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.

The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.

© W. W. Norton & Co. | Now Available | ISBN 978-0-393-93732-9

The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C. recreates the intellectual dynamics of one of the most formative periods in the human experience. After nearly three decades of war, Sparta crushed democratic Athens, destroyed its great walls and warships, occupied the city, and installed a brutal regime, “the Thirty Tyrants.” The excesses of the tyrants resulted in civil war and, as the game begins, they have been expelled and the democracy restored. But doubts about democracy remain, expressed most ingeniously by Socrates and his young supporters. Will Athens retain a political system where all decisions are made by an Assembly of 6,000 or so citizens? Will leaders continue to be chosen by random lottery? Will citizenship be broadened to include slaves who fought for the democracy and foreign-born metics who paid taxes in its support? Will Athens rebuild its long walls and warships and again extract tribute from city-states throughout the eastern Mediterranean? These and other issues are sorted out by a polity fractured into radical and moderate democrats, oligarchs, and Socratics, among others.

The debates are informed by Plato’s Republic, as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources. By examining democracy at its threshold, the game provides the perspective to consider its subsequent evolution.

About the Authors:

Josiah Ober is Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he holds joint appointments in the departments of Political Science and Classics. He is the author of several books on classical Athenian political and intellectual history, most recently Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (Princeton University Press). He is now working on a project about the relationship between democratic political culture and the social circulation of knowledge. Mark C. Carnes is Professor of History at Barnard College and creator of “Reacting to the Past.” He is author of many books in American history, including The American Nation (Longman). He is also General Editor of the 25-volume American National Biography, published by the ACLS and Oxford University Press.

Companion Text (Required):

Plato, The Republic (Desmond Lee, Trans.)
© 2007 | Penguin Classics | ISBN 9780140455113