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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Athenian democracy and modern preoccupations (online) (PGHC11477)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAthenian democracy has long been both the object of in-depth specialist research, and a (positive or negative) model for modern politics. These two aspects have never been fully separated: research on Athens has conditioned its uses as a model for modern politics, but, perhaps even notably, modern preoccupations have conditioned the research agenda of ancient historians. This course embraces both sides of the modern engagement with Athenian democracy. After discussing its past receptions, it proceeds to examine 'our' Athenian democracy, addressing issues such as constitutionalism, democratic deliberation, economic growth, the exploitation of slaves, and the public sphere, and combining research questions from political science and current political debates with rigorous analysis of the ancient material.
Course description Ancient Athens is (quite possibly) the first example of a political system practicing democratic governance on a large scale in world history, and by far the best-documented case-study before the emergence in the nineteenth century of modern democracy. Its reception, and its reinterpretation on the basis of later preoccupations starts as early as the Hellenistic period, and is a staple of political reflection from the Renaissance onwards. Athens is for a long time considered a negative model of mob rule, before being rescued by modern liberals in the nineteenth century and promoted to the prototype of a democratic state. Side-by-side with the political uses and misuses, historians have progressively reached a better understanding of Athenian society and the Athenian political system, thanks to rigorous research but also to new questions and new approaches, prompted by their current preoccupations.

This course embraces the dualism between political 'exploitation' of Athens as a model and serious historical research. Its aim is for the students to gain the instruments to investigate Athenian democracy in light of their own preoccupations, asking new questions of the evidence which can both widen our understanding of the ancient phenomenon, and shed new light on modern phenomena. After some introductory sessions, and a survey of past 'uses and abuses' of Athenian democracy, each session will concentrate on a modern problem of political life and research, and explore how an engagement with the ancient sources about Athenian democracy can provide new perspectives, and how in turn the modern starting point can help us better to understand ancient Athens.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate in forum posts and the final essay a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning Athenian democracy, as well as some knowledge of modern political theory on relevant issues;
  2. demonstrate in forum posts and the final essay an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship, primary source materials concerning, and conceptual discussions about, the various approaches Athenian democracy;
  3. demonstrate In forum posts and the final essay, an abillty to understand and apply specialised research or professional skills, techniques and practices for both quantitative and qualitative data;
  4. demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments In seminars and in written assessment by Independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course;
  5. demonstrate in seminar discussions, forum posts and written assessment originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others. including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy.
Reading List
Canevaro, M. (2015), 'Making in changing laws in ancient Athens', in E. M. Harris and M. Canevaro (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Law, Oxford:
Canevaro, M. (2016), 'The popular culture of the Athenian institutions: "Authorized" popular culture and "unauthorized" elite culture in classical Athens', in L. Grig (ed.), Locating Popular Culture in the Ancient World, Cambridge: 39-65.
Canevaro, M. (2018), 'Majority Rule vs. Consensus: The Practice of Democratic Deliberation in the Greek poleis', in M. Canevaro, A. Erskine, B. Gray and J. Ober (eds), Ancient Greek History and the Contemporary Social Sciences, Edinburgh.
Hansen, M. H. (1991), The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes, Oxford.
Hansen, M. H. (2005), The Tradition of Ancient Greek Democracy and its Importance for Modern Democracy. Copenhagen.
Harris, E. M. (2013a), The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens, Oxford.
Liddel, P. (2009), 'Ancient and modern democracy', in R. K. Balot (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, Oxford: 133-48.
Ober, J. (1989), Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens, Princeton.
Ober, J. (2008), Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, Princeton.
Ober, J. (2015), The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, Princeton.
Ma, J. (2018), 'Whatever Happened to Athens? Thoughts on the Great Convergence and Beyond', in M. Canevaro and B. Gray (eds), The Hellenistic Reception of Classical Athenian Democracy and Political Thought, Oxford: 278-97
Rhodes, P. J. (2003), Athenian Democracy and Modern Ideology, London.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to problems and issues.
- Identify, conceptualise and define new and abstract problems and issues.
- Develop original and creative responses to problems and issues.
- Critically review, consolidate and extend knowledge, skills, practices and thinking.
- Communicate with peers, more senior colleagues and specialists.
- Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise.
- Take responsibility for own work and/or signi cant responsibility for the work of others.
KeywordsAthens,democracy,political thought,political institutions,Greek history
Course organiserDr Mirko Canevaro
Tel: (0131 6)51 1256
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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