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The Place of Herodotus’ Constitutional Debate in the History of Political Ideas and the Emergence of Classical Social Theory

Journal article
Authors Otto Linderborg
Published in Akropolis: Journal of Hellenic Studies
Volume 3
Pages 5-28
ISSN 2536-5738
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 5-28
Language en
Keywords Origins of political theory, early history of political thought, Herodotean studies, Classical philology, Ancient Greek politicization, Beginnings of Western thought
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Languages and Literature


This paper investigates the question of which place in the history of political ideas may be assigned to the Constitutional Debate in Herodotus’ Histories, 3.80-82. It is shown that the Herodotean debate represents the earliest extant example of a social theory, in which a variety of distinctly social ordering principles are weighed against each other with normative arguments and in isolation from all sorts of divine authorisations. The article divides into three parts. The first part gives an account of the theoretical predecessors to the classical social theory first evidenced in the Constitutional Debate. The second part consists of an exposition of the socio-intellectual progressions clustered in the Herodotean debate, focussing on developments in constitutional thinking and argumentative evolvement. The third part consists of a close reading of the argumentative and politico-social content of the Constitutional Debate.

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