PARRHESIA AND THE DEMOS TYRANNOS: FRANK SPEECH, FLATTERY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN DEMOCRATIC ATHENS

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Abstract:

Parrhesia, or frank speech, is usually understood as a practice intimately connected to Athenian democracy. This paper begins by analysing parrhesia in non-democratic regimes. Building on that analysis, I suggest that most accounts of parrhesia overlook the degree to which its practice at Athens implied a comparison of the demos to an unaccountable ruler -- a tyrant. As a practice, parrhesia was paradigmatically undertaken by speakers addressing an audience with the power to sanction them in the event that their advice proved uncongenial. As such it could be useful in both democracies and autocracies, serving as a possible counterweight to flattering rhetoric. But in both regime types it was in essence a remedial virtue, necessitated by a basic structural feature common to both autocratic and Athenian democratic decision procedures: at the centre of both was an unaccountable decision maker able to hold its advisors to account

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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