Citizens varied in wealth, beauty, and intelligence, but as citizens they were equal. This was because citizens were rational, and the only appropriate relation between rational beings is that of persuasion. Persuasion differs from command in assuming equality between speaker and listener.
Among the Greeks we find most of the conditions of freedom: a life lived among equals, subject only to law, and ruling and being ruled in turn.
Democratic and oligarchic factions fought bitter battles within cities.
In reading much of the literature of their[Greek] time, we find it easy to think of them as our contemporaries: being rationalists, they speak across the millenniums to us, their cultural descendants, with a deceptive fluency.
The secret of life was human self-knowledge, and a balanced expression of one’s human capacities. In deliberating about law and public policy, man found his highest and purest form of self-expression. It could only be enjoyed in the political life of a city.
Cleon appealed to realism: if you want to have an empire, he argued, then you must be prepared to do the ruthless things necessary to keep it together. His opponent, Diodotus, argued for clemency on the ground that ruthlessness would merely turn every occasion of revolt among the clients of Athens into a life and death struggle. It was Diodotus who triumphed in this vivid intellectual contest.
Here was the world of nature in which everything had its season. In many civilizations, the distinction between artifice and nature is not developed, but it was the basis of the Greek understanding of the world.
The Greeks of the classical period were self-conscious enough to see themselves as a distinct culture, and it is in creating a historical understanding of themselves and their world that they were opening up quite new possibilities of human experience.
Politics and history were thus born together, for they share the same conception of what a human being is, and what is worth remembering.
History was the memory of words and deeds, and words were the vehicles of memory.
[Public speech] It requires the marshalling of ideas, the construction of arguments, the capacity to understand an audience, a recognition of the dominant passions of human nature, and much else.
For the first time in history, public decisions were made in the clear light of day and subject to open criticism.
Constitutions function into two essential ways: they circumscribe the power of the office-holders, and as a result they create a predictable (though not rigid and fixed) world in which the citizens may conduct their lives. It is constitutions which give form to politics, and the study of them led to the emergence of political science.
Greek politics (like everything else in the Greek world) was powerfully theorized, to such an extent that it has often been thought that we rattle around within the limited set of possibilities revealed to us by Greek experience.