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Level 5

5AACHI30 Generals, Tyrants, and Demagogues, or How to be a Leader in Ancient Greece

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Irene Polinskaya
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x 2,000 word essays (the higher marked essay is weighted at 70%, while the lower is weighted at 30%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The module addresses the subject of popular leadership in ancient Greece: who the leaders of ancient Greek communities were, and how they reached their positions of authority. We will need to understand (through myth, poetry, and art) the system of values that operated in contemporary society and we will need to look into the mechanisms of government that enabled individuals to assume positions of leadership (here ancient political theory and historical accounts will be used). Among other questions we will be asking: Why did an Olympic victor attempt to become a tyrant? Did one need military talent to be a general? What qualities were needed to get one re-elected for office time and again? Did democracies and oligarchies produce different kinds of leaders? How could a tyrant gain popular support?

Through the study of key ancient Greek sources in translation students will become familiar with the primary evidence on the subject and obtain the necessary background knowledge to debate the power of individuals to shape history. In the process, they will gain a deeper understanding of the political and cultural conditions of the ancient Greek world, as well as learn valuable comparative material for the study of modern leadership.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Herodotus; Thucydides; Aristotle “Constitution of the Athenians”; Xenophon “Anabasis”, “Hiero”; Plutarch “Themistocles,” “Solon”, “Pericles” ; speeches of Demosthenes and Isocrates

  • Hamel, D. (1998), Athenian Generals: Military Authority in the Classical Period.

  • Ober, J. (1989) Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens

  • B. Manville, J. Ober (2003) A Company of Citizens: what the world’s first democracy teaches leaders about creating great organizations. Boston

  • M. I. Finley (1962) “Athenian Demagogues”, Past and Present 21: 3-24

  • Kennedy, G. A. (1963) The Art of Persuasion in Ancient Greece

  • S. Lewis (2009) Greek Tyranny.

  • B.M. Lavelle (2005) Fame, money and power: the rise of Peisistratos and ‘democratic’ tyranny at Athens.

  • H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, ed. (2000) Peisistratos and the Tyranny: A Reappraisal of the Evidence

  • J.F. McGlew (1993) Tyranny and political culture in ancient Greece

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