‘Democracy’ and Aristophanes: A Terminological Approach

in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought
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Abstract

The term and the concept democracy prove to be not as easy to define as one might think. The word in itself implies some contradictions that undermine the very foundations of the form of government it describes, such as equality, freedom, tolerance, etc. The occurrences of the term and its derivates in Aristophanes seem to confirm this, thus proving the poet’s deep understanding of the political problematic mechanisms at work in 5th-century democratic Athens. By playing with the ambiguities of the terminology centered on δηµοκρατία, not only does Aristophanes denounce the flaws of democracy in general, and Athenian democracy in particular, but he also anticipates, in a way, the basic points of the ‘debate-to-be’ on the constitutions in which Plato and Aristotle, among others, will engage from the second half of the 5th century on.

‘Democracy’ and Aristophanes: A Terminological Approach

in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

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