The practice of politics in classical athens, and the paradox of democratic leadership

Robert W. Wallace*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter begins with a discussion on the politics in post-Cleisthenic Athens. While inadequate sources obscure much of the history of post-Cleisthenic politics, from the 430s the aristocracy, aristocratic ties, philoi, private wealth, local patronage, and factionalism all greatly diminish in importance, and direct democracy has strengthened. After political leadership opened to non-aristocrats in the 430s, many elites disdained political engagement. The chapter talks about politics outside the assembly. Within the framework of assembly primacy, other elements of Athens’ democratic polity, formal and informal, affected the practice of politics. Assemblies could amend council motions; they could direct the council to discuss any issue; and they decided. The assembly was at the center of Athens’ democracy, and the assembly mostly voted on proposals, not individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Greek Democracy and the Roman Republic
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781118878347
ISBN (Print)9781444336016
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Athens’ democracy
  • Democratic leadership
  • Politics in classical athens
  • Post-cleisthenic athens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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