Volume 2, 2006
Social and Political Philosophy
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.