The Ideal and the Reality of Classical Athens

The 5th c. is typically seen as the apex of Greek culture and society. See Notes on the Greek Heritage.

As Wiesner et al. note in chapter three, Ancient Athens is "one of the main sources of Western values and standards" (54). But as the primary documents suggest, some were more equal than others in this first democracy.


"Insolent conduct of slaves and resident aliens is everywhere rife in Athens"

"For the common people dress as poorly as slaves or aliens and their general appearance is no better"

"Of the mainland cities in the Athenian Empire, the large ones are governed by fear, the small ones by want"

"It seems to me that God adapted women's nature to indoor and man's to outdoor work."

"You must stay indoors and send out the servants whose work is outside and supervise those who work indoors."

"I showed her the women's quarters which are separated from the men's by a bolted door to prevent anything being improperly removed and also to ensure that the slaves should not have children without our permission."

The Republic (c. 380 BC): Justice is good for its consequences, but also is good in itself. Defined as doing what you’re naturally suited to do.
i. Analogy between and individual and a city: The Body Politic

1. Rational – Philosopher Ruler

2. Spirited – Soldiers

3. Appetitive - Craftspeople

ii. Anti-democratic

1. In a healthy city, people’s only goal is to meet basic needs

2. In an unhealthy city, people seek luxury and are in danger from the envy of others

Map of Agora


Sample Questions:

1. ____________________ is often called the "Father of Athenian Democracy."



2. According to Pericles, what are two benefits of Athenian democracy?


a. It produces well-rounded, reflective citizens.

b. Individuals are valued for their abilities, not for their social connections.

3. What institution does Aristotle think should be the model for government? Why?


Aristotle believes that the household should be the model for government because its relationship of men, women, and slaves reflects "the natural growth of things from the beginning" (Wiesner 64).

4. True or False. Plato's view of democracy as expressed in The Republic is similar to that of Pericles in his Funeral Speech.


False. Plato bests that government belongs in the hands of Philosopher Kings or what he calls Guardians, not in the Demos or Common People that Pericles praises in his speech.