The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 2006

Social and Political Philosophy

Antoine Côté
Pages 31-35

On the Very Idea of a Democratic Empire

The short anonymous work known as the Constitution of the Athenians has long since fascinated scholars. Written sometime in the 5th century, during or just before the Peloponnesian War, it offers a scathing attack on Athenian democratic institutions. Its author is unknown but has traditionally been called the "Old Oligarch" in reference to his obvious political convictions. But the pamphlet's interest lies not so much in its critique of Athenian democracy as in the connection the author sees between these institutions and Athens' imperialist policies in the Aegean.