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intolerance, intellectual and religious


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Sir K. Popper famously praised 5th cent. bc Athens as an ‘open society’, but the tolerance of that society had limits. There is some evidence for literary censorship, though of a haphazard and perhaps ineffective sort. Phrynichus got into trouble near the beginning of the century for putting on a tragedy dealing with a sensitive political topic. Between 440 and 437 there were formal restrictions on ridicule in theatrical comedy (see comedy (greek), old, §4). On the other hand there were no ‘witch‐hunts’ against intellectuals, though Anaxagoras and other associates of Pericles were prosecuted in the courts. Anaxagoras' ostensible offence was impiety, and the decree of Diopeithes, if historical, would provide hard evidence for public control of teaching with religious implications. (See also atheism; theodicy.) Alcibiades and others were punished severely for profaning the Eleusinian mysteries (see Andocides), but the offending action was hardly the product of earnest intellectual inquiry’. The reasons for Socrates' execution in 399 are still disputed, but political considerations were surely as relevant as religious: Socrates was critical of the working of democracy, and had taught, in his fashion, prominent oligarchs (see oligarchy). Aeschines 1 explicitly makes the latter point, with which Socrates could not be charged in 399 because of the amnesty.

In Rome, censors, despite their name, were not responsible for literary or artistic censorship in the modern sense. Book‐burning, is however attested in authoritarian periods of Roman history (see Cremutius Cordus). Roman attitudes to foreign religions were generally cosmopolitan; see religion, roman. The suppression of the Bacchanalia in 186 bc was exceptional. For Roman treatment of Jews see jews and Gaius 1: Gaius and the Jews; for persecution of Christians see christianity. See also philosophers and politics; protagoras.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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