Gentrifying the demos: aristocratic principles and democratic culture in ancient Athens


  • Luca Asmonti


This paper argues that Athenian democracy should be better understood in a context of aristocratic competition and within the culture of aristocracy. Even in democratic Athens, the citizen body can be described as an aristocracy within the whole population of the city, the former representing only a small fraction of the latter. Despite the strong sense of equalitarianism of the Athenian democracy, conflicts between those whom Pericles called the oligoi and the mass of ordinary citizens, the polloi, can be interpreted in terms of inter-aristocratic rivalry. Drawing on recent works by S. Lambert and J. Blok, this paper explores the idea that the culture of aristocracy has pervaded the practice of democracy.