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Democratic politics and the 'character' of thecity in Thucydides

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Scholars have long noticed in Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War a concern with the collective 'character' of cities. Thucydides and his Greeks appear to rely in understanding the course of the war on consistent Athenian and Spartan character traits. Focusing on the protagonist of the History, and drawing in part on an Arendtian notion of identity, I offer a re-conceptualization of Athenian character as characteristic action and as the subject of political rhetoric. This view, I suggest, more fully reveals what Thucydides has to contribute to our understanding of the dynamics and complexities of democratic politics

Keywords: Athens; Cleon; Diodotus; Greek politics; Peloponnesian war; Pericles; Thucydides; action; character; democracy; funeral oration; rhetoric; speech

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Union College, Schenectady, NY, 12308-3163, USA. Email:

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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