Remembering Defeat: Civil War and Civic Memory in Ancient Athens

Remembering Defeat: Civil War and Civic Memory in Ancient Athens

by Andrew Wolpert
     
 

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In 404 b.c. the Peloponnesian War finally came to an end, when the Athenians, starved into submission, were forced to accept Sparta's terms of surrender. Shortly afterwards a group of thirty conspirators, with Spartan backing ("the Thirty"), overthrew the democracy and established a narrow oligarchy. Although the oligarchs were in power for only thirteen months,

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Overview

In 404 b.c. the Peloponnesian War finally came to an end, when the Athenians, starved into submission, were forced to accept Sparta's terms of surrender. Shortly afterwards a group of thirty conspirators, with Spartan backing ("the Thirty"), overthrew the democracy and established a narrow oligarchy. Although the oligarchs were in power for only thirteen months, they killed more than 5 percent of the citizenry and terrorized the rest by confiscating the property of some and banishing many others. Despite this brutality, members of the democratic resistance movement that regained control of Athens came to terms with the oligarchs and agreed to an amnesty that protected collaborators from prosecution for all but the most severe crimes.

The war and subsequent reconciliation of Athenian society has been a rich field for historians of ancient Greece. From a rhetorical and ideological standpoint, this period is unique because of the extraordinary lengths to which the Athenians went to maintain peace. In Remembering Defeat, Andrew Wolpert claims that the peace was "negotiated and constructed in civic discourse" and not imposed upon the populace. Rather than explaining why the reconciliation was successful, as a way of shedding light on changes in Athenian ideology Wolpert uses public speeches of the early fourth century to consider how the Athenians confronted the troubling memories of defeat and civil war, and how they explained to themselves an agreement that allowed the conspirators and their collaborators to go unpunished. Encompassing rhetorical analysis, trauma studies, and recent scholarship on identity, memory, and law, Wolpert's study sheds new light on a pivotal period in Athens' history.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

History
Adds thoughtful insight to the development of Athenian democracy after the civil war.

— J. Drew Harrington

Ordia Prima
This short study of the rule of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens and the subsequent restoration of the Athenian democracy in 403 B.C. approaches these cataclysmic events from an interesting vantage point.

— Catherine M. Keesling

History - J. Drew Harrington

Adds thoughtful insight to the development of Athenian democracy after the civil war.

Ordia Prima - Catherine M. Keesling

This short study of the rule of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens and the subsequent restoration of the Athenian democracy in 403 B.C. approaches these cataclysmic events from an interesting vantage point.

Booknews
Wolpert (classics and history, University of Wisconsin-Madison) looks at the ideological and rhetorical aspects of the intrigue and turmoil following the Peloponnesian War, with an emphasis on the eventual move toward domestic peace. He examines the public speeches of fourth century Athens, analyzing their depictions of their defeat and the civil war. He seeks, in part, to understand the motives behind the amnesty offered collaborators. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801867903
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
12/28/2001
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Josiah Ober

Wolpert applies new approaches to law and ideology to the period and, in so doing, makes a real contribution: this will be a book that anyone interested in the development of Athenian democracy will want to read.

Josiah Ober, Princeton University

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