C C 303 Lecture Notes - Lecture 21: Athenian Democracy, Pnyx, Homer

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Lecture : SophoclesAjax
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Athenian Democracy
Cradle of democracy
Instituted with a constitutional decree in 508 BCE by Cleisthenes
Democracy = Greek demos, people + kratos, poer
The Theater as a Democratic Institution
Theater of Dionysus was in the heart of the city of Athens
o At the base of the Acropolis (cultural, religious, etc. heart of city)
o Close to the Agora
o Looking towards the Pnyx (meeting place of the Assembly)
o Huge theater with echoing effect to carry voices from stage to audience
Theater was run to demonstrate the power of the people
Playwrights would compete against each other
o Victories awarded by jury of ordinary citizens
Performances funded by state-organized benefaction
Funding available for attendance for the poor
Special seating for city officials, generals, youth
Preparation for Democratic Participation
Theater attendance prepares audience for participation in other democratic institutions
o Jury service (100s of people), mass meetings (direct democracy), civic
o Persuasion
o Argument structure
Democratic ideology
o Plays tell stories of aristocracies and monarchies and what goes wrong under
those governments
Shared points of reference: myth
o Know the same stories
o Share the same perspectives
Aristocracy and Democracy
Aristocracy = Greek aristos, the est’ + kratos, poer
Homeric Society as Aristocracy
Distribution of wealth and power to individuals possessing the greatest timē (status)
Is status absolute and/or determined by birth (Agamemnon), or does performance play
a role (Achilles)?
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