Democracy was born in Athens. From the city's founding myths to its golden age and chaotic downfall, this timely and well-informed political history is rich with lessons for contemporary America.
Why did vital civic engagement and fair debate in Athens descend into populism and paralysis? Can we compare the demagogue Cleon to President Trump; the Athenian Empire to modern America; or the stubborn island of Melos to Brexit Britain? How did a second referendum save the Athenians from a bloodthirsty decision? Who were the last defenders of democracy in the changing, globalized world of the fourth century BC—and how do we unconsciously echo these leaders today?
With verve and acuity, the heroics and the critics of Athenian democracy are brought to bear on today's politics, revealing in all its glories and its flaws the system that still survives to execute the power of the people.