Athenian DemocracyPosted: August 22, 2018
Athenian Democracy: An Experiment for the Ages
Professor Robert Garland, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
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I have listened to other courses by Robert Garland and have always enjoyed them. This particular course was especially good.
The material is not new to me. I was a classics major in college, meaning that I studied the Latin and Greek languages as well as Greek and Roman history, literature, art, and culture. Still, it’s always fun to review and there is always the opportunity to learn something new or discover a different perspective.
Athenian democracy was truly a democracy as far as it went. All free males in Athens were expected to take part in the governance of the state. There were a variety of roles to fill and everyone took his turn. Of course, this represented only a small portion of the total population. Women were excluded as were slaves. And it was a slave-based society that allowed the free men to have their democracy.
Of course the democracy wasn’t seamless and there were times when tyranny or oligarchy ruled the day. Still, overall Athens had a strong track record of democracy until the Macedonians put an end to it.
This course was recorded in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and is heavily influenced by the result. Garland is no fan of the winner of that election. While the lecture series from the Great Courses are designed to be mostly evergreen, and the bulk of this course which focuses on the ancient world will be as well, it will be interesting to see how those parts referring to the election and its aftermath hold up after a couple of additional election cycles.
Nonetheless, if you are interested in the ancient world and its history and governance I can highly recommend this course.