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WHEDBEE, Karen E.

Fall 2003, pages 65-86

The Tyranny of Athens: Representations of Rhetorical Democracy in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Abstract: In an age in which "democracy" is viewed as synonymous for legitimacy in government, it is easy to overestimate the positive influence of Athenian democracy on the history of rhetoric and politics. However, a survey of eighteenth-century commentaries on ancient Greece reveals consistent hostility toward the underpinning rhetorical dynamic of Athenian popular government. An understanding of the anti-Athenian tradition is useful because it clarifies political assumptions that inform rhetorics of the early-modern period. More broadly, it also demonstrates the importance of the historical relationship between rhetorical studies and classical studies.
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