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Abstract | Herodotean Democracies

What can Herodotus say to today’s democracies? This essay begins from a puzzle about the very language of democracy in Herodotus’s Histories, namely the narrator’s notorious re-description of what the Persian Otanes called isonomia as a demokratia. Most interpreters wave off this difference as insignificant, but I show how it highlights the variety of democracies within the Histories. Different democracies also practice different principles of equality: isonomia, isegoria, and isokratia. Herodotus’s depiction of these principles in turn suggest a challenge to how we theorize and practice democracy today.

About Joel Schlosser

Joel Alden Schlosser grew up in Seattle, Washington and has pursued his education at Carleton College, University of California at Berkeley, and Duke University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College. Trained as a political theorist, his research begins from questions about the nature and possibilities of democratic life and he has published widely on both ancient political theory as well as contemporary American literature. At CHS, he will be writing a book about Herodotus and political theory.

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