Athens of the 6th - 4th centuries B.C. has become a byword for knowledge, learning, and high culture.. But the most important and consequential innovation produced by Classical-era Athens was the concept of democracy - of governance based on an assembly where citizens would debate and vote. This combination of liberty and responsibility gave Athens great strength and great civic vitality - and made Athens the richest and most-powerful city-state in the classical Greek world. But without institutional constraints (and often devoid of self-discipline), that democracy was prone to demagoguery, excessive emotional irrationalities, and mercurial inconsistencies - which eventually caused Athens to self-destructive. Based largely on contemporary and near-contemporary sources - Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Plutarch - in this short book Daniel Foty weaves these sources together into a narrative that is seamless - as well as crisp and succinct. Engaging and very readable, this story takes the reader through the turbulent history (and associated personalities) of classical-era Athens - its early and semi-mythical origins, its rise to model city-state greatness, its self-destructive fall from that greatness, and its ultimate submersion into irrelevance as the Classical era was succeeded by the Hellenistic era. Written for the general reader, the story of classical Athens is told here anew - demonstrating that this story is never outdated and never irrelevant.
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