Annual Benefactor's Lecture

We the People - Athenian Style: How Modern Democracy is Not Ancient
Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge, UK

Thursday, May 17, 2018
Carson L01
4:45 pm

Reception to follow!

Democracy, the word, was originally invented in ancient Greece, by the
Athenians of the Classical period (5th-4th centuries BCE). It was they too
who invented the original form - or rather forms - of democracy. We (the
British, the French, the Americans etc etc) have borrowed that ancient
Greek word. However - and it is a very BIG 'however' - the ancient Greeks'
'democracy' (or democracies) and our 'democracy' (or democracies) have
little more than the name in common. Our (modern) democracies and their
(ancient) democracies differ radically from each other both in kind and in
substance. In very brief terms, theirs were direct, whereas ours are
indirect, or representative. To explain the title of my talk (borrowed of
course from the opening words of the American Constitution): we the people
(whoever exactly 'we' are) enjoy (or suffer) government 'of' the people and
(we hope) 'for' the people - but not, repeat not, government 'by' the
people, in the sense of day-to-day ruling and governing by all of us all
the time. Instead, we entrust day-to-day democratic ruling and governing to
parliaments (composed of elected representatives) and governments, such as
the President plus Congress of the USA. The ancient Greeks did not have,
and would not have wanted to have or have recognised, such 'governments' or
'parliaments'. Part of the point of this lecture is to explain how and why
that was the case. And why it - still - matters. A great deal.

Paul Cartledge is the emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek
Culture in the University of Cambridge, and the A.G. Leventis Senior
Research Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge. He is the author, co-author,
editor and/or co-editor of over 25 books, the most recent being *Democracy:
A Life*. Originally published by OUP/New York in spring 2016 (during the US
Presidential campaign), this book has just been republished.
Afterword, in paperback. He is an Honorary Citizen of (modern) Sparta and
holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honour (awarded by the President of
the Hellenic Republic).


Sponsored by the Classics Department