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Nothing to Do with Democracy: Athenian Drama and the Polis

P. J. Rhodes
The Journal of Hellenic Studies
Vol. 123 (2003), pp. 104-119
DOI: 10.2307/3246262
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3246262
Page Count: 16
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Nothing to Do with Democracy: Athenian Drama and the Polis
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Abstract

A fashionable approach to the interpretation of Athenian drama concentrates on its context in performance at Athenian festivals, and sees both the festivals and the plays as products of the Athenian democracy. In this paper it is argued that, whereas the institutional setting inevitably took a particular form in democratic Athens, that was an Athenian version of institutions found more generally in the Greek world, and even in the Athenian version many features do not seem distinctively democratic. Similarly in the interpretation of particular plays themes have often been said to be democratic which are better seen as concerns of polis-dwelling Greeks in general, and the notion that plays questioned Athens' democratic values because the democratic ethos of Athens consciously encouraged the questioning of Athens' democratic values is far from certain.

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