Tyrannical oligarchs at Athens

Lynette Mitchell

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI:
Tyrannical oligarchs at Athens

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Athens had known tyrants in the sixth century, and ostracism was first instituted as a measure to prevent tyranny. This chapter argues that oligarchy was linked to tyranny because in the development of Greek political theory, both at the popular and more reflective and philosophical levels, tyranny informed and even provided the analytical framework for understanding constitutional forms. It shows how popular ideas about the nature of Greek constitutions and more reflective and serious political theorising were in dialogue with each other, and that the simple opposition between the rule of law and tyranny affected the development of constitutional theory. It also argues that oligarchy was assimilated to tyranny in order to force a contrast between oligarchy and democracy which could not be sustained in terms of the constitutional forms themselves. Finally, it examines why the Athenians were so concerned about tyranny.

Keywords: Athens; tyranny; democracy; oligarchy; tyrants; political theory; constitutions; rule of law; constitutional theory

Chapter.  4532 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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