Politics and the Street in Democratic Athens by Alex Gottesman

By Alex Gottesman

This ebook is the 1st in-depth learn of the classical Athenian public sphere. It examines how public opinion was once created by means of impromptu theatrics and through gossip, and the way it flowed into and out of the civic associations. Athenians didn't have hookah bars or espresso retailers yet they did socialize in symposia and gymnasia and workshops, and in particular within the Agora. those represented the Athenian 'street', an off-the-cuff political area that used to be obvious as qualitatively diverse from the institutional house of the meeting, the council and the courts the place elite orators held sway. The ebook explores how Athenians of every kind, akin to politicians, slaves and philosophers, sought to take advantage of the assets of the 'street' in pursuit in their goals.

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According to the fourth-century comic poet Eubulus, everything was for sale in the same place: figs, grapes, lawsuits, chickpeas, laws, indictments (fr. 31 A story about Socrates in Plutarch colorfully illustrates the courts’ place in the Agora’s commotion. Socrates was walking through the neighborhood with some friends, the story goes, when suddenly his Sign made him take a See especially Boegehold 1963. It is not likely that the procedure, as AP describes it, took place entirely in the Peristyle.

492c6). Isocrates also uses the metaphor to describe the non-institutional public sphere as a swollen, rushing river in which false images of people circulate (15. 42 Isocrates in particular was complaining that Athenian public opinion had a false image of him, and this led to loss in an antidosis procedure before a jury. For discourse that took shape in one public sphere could influence discourse that took place in another, and lead to an institutional outcome. That outcome would itself become a topic of conversation in the informal sphere, leading to further dissemination of an idea or a topic and the crystallization of a piece of gossip into a social fact.

28 As I said, we generally have only literary texts to go on, and these were the products of elites. So it is almost impossible to be certain about the ultimate sources or about the contemporary popular reception of a story. We cannot access the Street directly. But we can be certain that slanderous anecdotes did not exist in a literary vacuum. One place we can catch a glimpse of the stories’ currency in the Street is on some of the early fifth-century pottery shards on which ordinary Athenians scratched the name of the prominent politician whom they would most like to see leave the city.

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