Verity Harte, Melissa Lane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

2 Scopus citations


The organizing focus of this volume is its exploration of themes associated with the multi-faceted Greek notion of politeia. Politeia is the Greek title of what the English-speaking world calls Plato’s Republic. It figures in the title of other surviving works of the fifth and fourth century bc, such as Xenophon’s Spartan Politeia, the so-called Old Oligarch’s (or ps.Xenophon) Athenian Politeia and the Aristotelian Politeia of the Athenians, in which titles the term is generally translated by ‘constitution’. It is picked up in later works such as the Politeia of Zeno of Citium and echoed in the Latin De republica of Cicero. Yet politeia as such — the meaning and range of the term — has received surprisingly little attention as a lens into ancient ideas about politics and ethics. The term’s first extant occurrence in a non-fragmentary text of known authorship is in Herodotus 9.34, where it means the condition of citizenship (its core meaning, according to Schofield 2006c: 33). By extension the term comes, in the writing of politeiai, to refer to that system of laws and practices in the civic community that constructs, educates and constrains a person’s condition of citizenship. Thus, for Aristotle, a politeia is the ‘form of life of a city (polis)’ (Pol. 4.11 1295a40, cited in Schofield 2006c: 33); for Isocrates, it is the ‘soul of the city (polis)’ (Orat. 12 (Panathenaicus), 138, cited in Bordes 1982: 128). Only secondarily is politeia a genre of writing focused on specific forms of rule or government, that is, on constitution (the most commonly used English translation of politeia) in the modern political sense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPoliteia in Greek and Roman Philosophy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781139096843
ISBN (Print)9781107020221
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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