Who Am I? (Mis)Identity and the Polis in Oedipus Tyrannus

  Karakantza, Efimia D. 2020. Who Am I? (Mis)Identity and the Polis in Oedipus Tyrannus. Hellenic Studies Series 86. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_KarakantzaED.Who_am_I.2020.

Appendix 2. Cleisthenes

A classic book on the Cleisthenic reforms remains Clisthène l’ Athénien. Essai sur la représentation de l’ espace et du temps dans la pensée politique grecque de la fin du VIe siècle à la mort de Platon by Pierre Lévêque and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, published in 1964. In 1969, another extensive study on Cleisthenes was published by Clarendon Press: Nomos and the Beginnings of the Athenian Democracy , by the German-American classical scholar Martin Ostwald. Ostwald then pursued his themes in a subsequent book: From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of the Law (1986).

This interest in Cleisthenes, however, as one of the “founding fathers” of Athenian democracy was not always the case. Mogens Herman Hansen’s contribution to the volume Ritual, Finance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis (1994) has the telling title “The 2500 th Anniversary of Cleisthenes’ Reforms and the Tradition of Athenian Democracy” (25–37). In this contribution, he writes: “both in our sources for Athenian democracy and in the tradition about Athenian democracy Cleisthenes is a subordinate character, and it is only in this century that he has become the focus of attention in studies of Athenian democracy” (25). For centuries, Cleisthenes was overshadowed by Solon and Pericles. Only after the publication of Aristotle’s The Constitution of Athens in 1891 did attention shift to Cleisthenes, for the philosopher gives us “the longest and most detailed account of Cleisthenes’ work” in chapters 20–22 (26). Hansen further remarks:

… even today it is disputed whether Cleisthenes deserves to be credited with the introduction of democracy in Athens. Following the fourth-century tradition some modern historians will have the birth of Athenian democracy pushed back to Solon. Others believe that the essential elements of popular rule did not emerge until after Ephialtes’ reforms. For my own part, I recommend that we trust Herodotus when he tells us that it was Cleisthenes who gave power to the people (27).

Relevant to the entire discussion are, of course, the individual contributions to the Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece , edited by Raaflaub, Ober, and Wallace (2007).