Political Ideology and Political Realities in Athenian Democracy. Demokratia (“People Power”). Chios (Aegean sea) Megara (Greek mainland) Heraclea Pontica (Black Sea) Cyrene (north African coast) Ambracia (northwestern Greece) Athens and “Imperial Democracy”.
“It was he who led them, rather than they who led him, and, since he never sought power from any wrong motive, he was under no necessity of flattering them: in fact he was so highly respected that he was able to speak angrily to them and to contradict them. Certainly when he saw that they were going too far in a mood of over-confidence, he would bring back to them a sense of their dangers; and when they were discouraged for no good reason he would restore their confidence. So, in what was nominally a democracy, power was really in the hands of the first citizen.”
Thucydides, 2.65 (on Pericles)
“Another kind of democracy is where all the other regulations are the same, but the multitude is sovereign and not the law; and this comes about when the decrees of the assembly over-ride the law. This state of things is brought about by the demagogues; in the states under democratic government guided by law a demagogue does not arise, but the best class of citizens are in the prominent position; but where laws are not sovereign, then demagogues arise; for the common people become a single composite monarch, since the many are sovereign not as individuals but collectively.”
“First I want to say this: there the poor and the people generally are right to have more than the high-born and wealthy for the reason that it is the people who man the ships and impart strength to the city; the steersmen, the boatswains, the sub-boatswains, the look-out officers, and the shipwrights—these are the ones who impart strength to the city more than the hoplites, the high-born, and the good men.”
“Nothing is more violent and foolish than a useless mob; for men fleeing the insolence of a tyrant to fall victim to the insolence of an unguided populace is by no means to be tolerated. Whatever the one does, he does with knowledge; but for the other knowledge is impossible; how can they have knowledge who have not learned to see for themselves what is best, but always rush headlong and drive blindly onward, like a river in flood.”
“And as for the fact that the Athenians have chosen the kind of constitution that they have, I do not think well of their doing this inasmuch as in making their choice they have chosen to let the worst people be better off than the good. Therefore, on this account, I do not think well of their constitution.”