* Our lecture will be broadcasted live. Please click HERE to watch
With populism and populists in the news, it makes sense to revisit some of history's earliest populists, the demagogues of ancient Greece. Ancient authors like Thucydides condemned these figures, such as the Athenian politician Cleon, for abandoning the statesmanlike style of Pericles and "pandering" to the masses. The demagogues' policies have been blamed for Athens' loss in the Peloponnesian War and for the outbreak of civil conflict in ancient Greece more broadly. Today "demagogue" remains a term of condemnation.
Yet the demagogues of ancient Greece were much more complex figures than this. Given the direct nature of ancient democracies, it was almost inevitable that figures like them--skilled in public oratory, solicitous of the masses' needs--would arise. Demagogues also pitched their appeals to mass audiences in what they thought was a "popular," folksy style. For this reason they remain untapped sources for non-elite attitudes and values in the ancient world. And as with populists today, the Greek demagogues actively shaped cultural perceptions of "the people" as much as they reflected them. This lecture engages with contemporary theories of populism and popular culture in order to shed light on an understudied subject
LocationASCSA, Cotsen Hall, 9 Anapiron Polemou, 106 76 Athens
Watchdogs of the People? The Demagogues of Ancient Greece
Matt Simonton (Arizona State)