A problem child | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 52, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0165-8204
  • E-ISSN: 2667-1573



Soclees of Corinth has just foiled the Spartan move to crush the infant Athenian democracy, and the exiled tyrant Hippias tells the Corinthians that one day they will yearn for the Peisistratids, when they find pain at the hands of the Athenians (5.93.1). Soclees had told how the infant Cypselus escaped death at the hands of those sent to kill him: is the implication that Corinth should have strangled the infant Athens? Is Athens to be the new Cypselus, a ‘tyrant city’ indeed? Herodotus’ moralism is not so simple, and his emphasis usually falls on freedom more than on democracy. Still, democracy offers a test-case to see what happens when freedom is pushed to its limit, rather as Persia exemplifies the opposite extreme, personal power at its most unbridled. On democracy the outcome was still not clear when Herodotus wrote: would Athens suffer the same fate as its imperialistic predecessor Persia? Or would it be different, perhaps because of democracy and freedom? Whatever the outcome turned out to be, future readers would find strands in Herodotus’ narrative that would help them to understand.


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