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Oct 17, 2017

The hallmark of Athenian democracy was equality. From at least the beginning of the 5th century, Athens was a place where there was equality in political rights. By the mid-5th century, the Athenian assembly had sovereignty in matters of decision making. The practical politics of Athens, however, required political leaders: able, often wealthy men, well-practised in rhetoric, who arose out of the elite political think tanks and who guided the decision making in the assembly. At an ideological level, democracy found this tension difficult to resolve. In tracing the early development of Athenian democratic thinking in this paper, Lynette Mitchell argues that there also emerged a way of projecting good and ideal kings onto the ancient history of democratic Athens, and that this positive theorisation of kingship was important to several thinkers for the space it gave to political leadership.