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Tag Archives: Athens

Public Funding and Monumental Buildings, a few thoughts

I want to make a few observations about public funding of monumental buildings in ancient Greece and modern America–not so much for conclusions as for musings. To put it bluntly, I am thinking out loud. Before diving in, I want to acknowledge a few caveats because it is always dicey business to equate the two […]

The Spartan Mirage and American Militarism

Several years ago I wrote a post for this site claiming that the Spartan mirage is/was rooted in military excellence. As I later pointed out on that post, this characterization is inaccurate. In fact, the Spartan mirage stems from the stability of the Spartan constitution. The state did not suffer from the same internecine stasis […]

The Problem of Exemplarity

One of my biggest academic pet peeves is the extent to which Athens is overrepresented in textbooks, lectures, and scholarship. An example of this phenomenon (and not a particularly egregious example at that) is that in one textbook the entire chapter on Western Greeks before the fifth century comprised six pages, while the chapter on […]

The First Reconstruction of Athens: Between Salamis and Plataia

The story goes that between the defeat at Thermopylae and the arrival of the advance Persian troops at Athens, the Athenian leadership managed to remove the entire population of Attike to the island of Salamis. At this point it is commonly accepted that not all of the population went to Salamis, and that a sizable […]

Athenian Allies

In the funeral oration venerating the Athenian dead as reported by Thucydides, one of the themes is the inherent differences between Athenians and Spartans. Perikles strikes on government differences, educational differences, personality, et cetera, while praising Athens and downplaying the virtues of their opponents. One of the striking contrasts (according to the Perikles of Thucydides) […]

Democracy, republicanism and war

Are democracies inherently flawed when it comes to running a war? Does a strong executive (to use the modern terminology) make the running of a war more efficient, if not always more successful? Thucydides would say so, and indeed he lays the blame for Athenian defeat mostly at the hands on the demagogues, who were […]

The Spartan Myth – Martial Prowess & Invincibility

On the eve of the Persian Wars1 Sparta was undeniably the most powerful military force in Greece. The only true competitor during this period was Argos, but under Kleomenes, Sparta annihilated their army at Sepeia, supposedly killing half of that generation’s military capacity. Athens had a naval component of sorts, but it was not until […]