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date: 20 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the political passions in Thucydides’ History. Focusing on the seminal antithesis between emotion and (political) reason, it argues that this antithesis is itself inherently political: the nature and role of the passions in politics are themselves political questions; their answers, the stakes of political conflict. The chapter examines this contention within Thucydides’ analysis of Athenian democratic politics, particularly Pericles’ affective governance of an angry demos; and within Athenian imperial politics, in which disastrous expansion is fueled by the irrational passions of the demos, Athens, and mankind as a whole. In both domains, Thucydides uses emotion (performatively as well as analytically) to construct a particular vision of political rationality and to secure the authority of his own rational and dispassionate historiography.

Keywords: emotions, reason/rationality, democratic politics, Athenian empire, Pericles, historiography, demos

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