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Courage in the Democratic PolisIdeology and Critique in Classical Athens$
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Ryan K. Balot

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199982158

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199982158.001.0001

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The Courageous Passions of Democratic Athens

The Courageous Passions of Democratic Athens

(p.218) Chapter 10 The Courageous Passions of Democratic Athens
Courage in the Democratic Polis

Ryan K. Balot

Oxford University Press

Through examining four different types of public speech, this chapter shows that Pericles’ rationalistic model of courage coexisted in classical Athens with other, more traditional paradigms. The co-existence of these different paradigms leads us to appreciate certain ambiguities and instabilities in the Athenian experience of courage during the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Court cases, in particular, showed prosecutors and defendants striving to display conformity with the judgments of the demos, rather than praising the independent thinking of individual citizens. Equally, speakers in the courtroom openly referred to shame, humiliation, and fear of punishment as the central and most appropriate motivations for courage. In other types of speech, however, such as the funeral orations of the fourth century, courage was still presented as both informed by practical reasoning about the city’s good and by normatively appropriate emotional responses to danger or foreign attack—in particular, rationally informed anger. There is thus a fundamental ambiguity in the Athenian experience of courage. The democratic Athenians displayed remarkably innovative and rationalistic tendencies, on the one hand, and a certain inclination to withdraw into traditional ideas and attitudes, on the other.

Keywords:   emotion, shame, fear, ideological tension

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