This course will examine democracy in the ancient world by focusing primarily on two ancient cities: Athens and Rome. Athens is often considered the birthplace of democracy, but what was really meant by democracy? If it means "rule by the people" we have to consider whether Athens was really a democracy when women, slaves and non-citizen residents were not allowed to participate in government. Ancient Rome before the time of the emperors was a "res publica" (a word which turned into our word "republic") and the Roman people (again, not including women, slaves and non-citizen residents) were nominally the rulers of their city and their empire. But few modern scholars would call ancient Rome a democracy, because the Roman senate, a body of extremely wealthy men, seemed to have more power than the rest of the Roman people.
At some level "democracy" refers to popular participation in politics, and therefore in this course we will examine ancient Greece (primarily Athens) and Rome with a view to evaluating the extent and quality of popular political participation. While doing this, we will compare and contrast the lives of citizens and non-citizens, of the free, the non-free and the "freed", and of men and women in ancient Athens and Rome. And in the process of evaluating ancient democracies, we may begin to re-evaluate our own.
- Professor: Catherine Tracy