Death to Tyrants!: Ancient Greek Democracy and the Struggle against Tyranny
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Death to Tyrants! is the first comprehensive study of ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation--laws that explicitly gave individuals incentives to "kill a tyrant." David Teegarden demonstrates that the ancient Greeks promulgated these laws to harness the dynamics of mass uprisings and preserve popular democratic rule in the face of anti-democratic threats. He presents detailed historical and sociopolitical analyses of each law and considers a variety of issues: What is the nature of an anti-democratic threat? How would various provisions of the laws help pro-democrats counter those threats? And did the laws work?
Teegarden argues that tyrant-killing legislation facilitated pro-democracy mobilization both by encouraging brave individuals to strike the first blow against a nondemocratic regime and by convincing others that it was safe to follow the tyrant killer's lead. Such legislation thus deterred anti-democrats from staging a coup by ensuring that they would be overwhelmed by their numerically superior opponents. Drawing on modern social science models, Teegarden looks at how the institution of public law affects the behavior of individuals and groups, thereby exploring the foundation of democracy's persistence in the ancient Greek world. He also provides the first English translation of the tyrant-killing laws from Eretria and Ilion.
By analyzing crucial ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation, Death to Tyrants! explains how certain laws enabled citizens to draw on collective strength in order to defend and preserve their democracy in the face of motivated opposition.
during his conquest of western Asia Minor: he publicly referred to prominent members of cities’ pro-Persian faction as “tyrants”; he issued an anti-tyranny proclamation after the battle of Gaugamela; he made known his intention to return to Athens the original statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton. I now defend this much bolder thesis: the promulgation of anti-tyranny or tyrant-killing laws and decrees contributed significantly to the success of democracy in Hellenistic western Asia Minor. As
near Mounichia. There is no word on what they discussed there, yet they obviously articulated a consensus and formulated a battle plan. They then marched on the city. The regime members, quickly realizing that they had no chance to defeat such a large number of coordinated men, offered to surrender and turn over control of the city to the Five Thousand. The mobilized hoplites, concerned for the safety of the state (a Spartan fleet was set to sail), agreed to meet in the theater of Dionysos on the
and external factors, although important, are generally secondary. The third objection is that pro-democrats would have “naturally” overcome difficulties of mobilization in defense of their democracy. The best basis for that objection is that most Greek poleis were rather small. And if the citizen population of a given polis was small enough, each citizen might gain knowledge of both the nature and intensity of each of his fellow citizens’ political preferences simply from everyday interpersonal
interactions. If he knew from such interactions that a majority of them are willing to fight to defend the democracy and that everybody knows that, he likely would assume greater risk in defending the democracy too: he would not wait for a large number of other individuals to act before he does because he would trust that a sufficient number of individuals would follow him. This “natural solution” theory is reasonable, but its applicability should not be overstated. Malcolm Gladwell has
It is obvious, however, that hard-line anti-Macedonians—those prominent in the pre-Chaironeia period—could not secure such a relationship: they had led Athens to war against Philip, rejecting his repeated attempts to make peace. It was their political opponents, men accused by leading democrats in previous years of being traitors, who will have performed that function. Consequently, Athenian democrats were caught in a catch-22: the success of such (potentially subversive) men was necessary for