• Athenian Constitution •
• Xenophon •
Duration: 34 mins
Price : $18
About the “Athenian Constitution" by Xenophon
This is a short work in three chapters, the “Athenian Constitution” (GR: Ἀθηναίων Πολιτεία) where Xenophon displays in a very pragmatic manner certain characteristics of the Athenian democracy, which would raise a few eyebrows! One cannot deny that most of what is described there is still an appropriate catalogue of all the pitfalls of this system of government, but as Xenophon already realized it works like that for those who prefer it.
The dilemma is the (lack of) balance between an uncontrolable freedom which leads to all sorts of wrong doing, against a discipline of the oligarchs which lets no breathing space and leads to tyranny. The author makes it clear from the beginning that he's rather critical of the Athenian democracy :-)
You can follow the text of Xenophon's “Athenian Constitution” Greek text online at the Perseus library. A translation in English is found here (Archive.org) and here (Perseus).
Xenophon (Gr.: Χενοφῶν) was a Greek historian, author and military man who lived in the 5th and 4th century BC. He was a student of Socrates whom he followed already at a young age. He served as a soldier in several campaigns, including the Persian expedition led by Cyrus the Younger against his brother Artaxerxes the 2nd. He wrote several works, including "Anabasis", a firsthand account of the expedition, and "Hellenica", a history of Greece from 411 to 362 BC. Xenophon's writings are known for their clear and concise style, and they provide valuable insights into the political, social, and military life of ancient Greece. He is also known for his "Oeconomicus" and "Memorabilia" which both give a glimpse of the daily life, culture and education of the Athenians in the classical period. He was also a proponent of the education of women and children. He died in the year 355 or 354 BC, his legacy and works are still studied and read by scholars of ancient history and philosophy.
A short introduction to Xenophon's life and work can be found at the Great Thinkers' website.
About the audiobook
The recording contains the complete, unabridged Ancient Greek text of Xenophon's “Athenian Constitution”. After purchase you will be able to download the relevant mp3 file.
You can listen to the first two paragraphs of chapter 1 of the “Athenian Constitution”, an audio sample of the present audiobook. Please, click on the play-button bellow and, if you wish, follow the Ancient Greek text lower on the page, or alternatively watch the video, which is provided with a quick translation in English. Thank you!
 περὶ δὲ τῆς Ἀθηναίων πολιτείας, ὅτι μὲν εἵλοντο τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον τῆς πολιτείας οὐκ ἐπαινῶ διὰ τόδε ὅτι ταῦθ᾽ ἑλόμενοι εἵλοντο τοὺς πονηροὺς ἄμεινον πράττειν ἢ τοὺς χρηστούς· διὰ μὲν οὖν τοῦτο οὐκ ἐπαινῶ. ἐπεὶ δὲ ταῦτα ἔδοξεν οὕτως αὐτοῖς, ὡς εὖ διασῴζονται τὴν πολιτείαν καὶ τἆλλα διαπράττονται ἃ δοκοῦσιν ἁμαρτάνειν τοῖς ἄλλοις Ἕλλησι, τοῦτ᾽ ἀποδείξω.
 πρῶτον μὲν οὖν τοῦτο ἐρῶ: ὅτι δικαίως δοκοῦσιν αὐτόθι: καὶ οἱ πένητες καὶ ὁ δῆμος πλέον ἔχειν τῶν γενναίων καὶ τῶν πλουσίων διὰ τόδε: ὅτι ὁ δῆμός ἐστιν ὁ ἐλαύνων τὰς ναῦς καὶ ὁ τὴν δύναμιν περιτιθεὶς τῇ πόλει, καὶ οἱ κυβερνῆται καὶ οἱ κελευσταὶ καὶ οἱ πεντηκόνταρχοι καὶ οἱ πρῳρᾶται καὶ οἱ ναυπηγοί, — οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὴν δύναμιν περιτιθέντες τῇ πόλει πολὺ μᾶλλον ἢ οἱ ὁπλῖται καὶ οἱ γενναῖοι καὶ οἱ χρηστοί. ἐπειδὴ οὖν ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχει, δοκεῖ δίκαιον εἶναι πᾶσι τῶν ἀρχῶν μετεῖναι ἔν τε τῷ κλήρῳ καὶ ἐν τῇ χειροτονίᾳ, καὶ λέγειν ἐξεῖναι τῷ βουλομένῳ τῶν πολῑτῶν.