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A generation gap in late fifth-century-BC Athens



The belief that there was a generation gap in Athens in the late fifth century BC is widely accepted by the scholarly community. This paper looks at how the generation gap thesis has come into being and challenges that view, seeking to show that the intergenerational differences became neither a subject of politics nor a political factor, although the young and the old did respond differently to the challenges and innovations that stirred both private and public life in Athens at the time.
Ivan Jordović
A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens
at the young began to play an important role on the political scene after
Pericles’ death and that this may have been one of the major features of a
“revolution underway in Athenian public life at the time has been sug-
gested by W. R. Connor in his monograph published in the early 1970s.1 W.
G. Forrest’s thesis proposed in 1975 that there was a generation gap in Ath-
ens in the third part of the fifth century BC has attracted much scholarly
attention. at his thesis reflected the then current scholarly interests is
evidenced by the fact that his stance was adopted in an edited volume pub-
lished the following year. e topic has also received much attention from
M. Ostwald in his study on the development of the Athenian democracy
in the fifth century BC. e far-reaching influence of Forrest’s hypothesis
is best shown by B. S. Strauss’s Fathers and Sons in Athens published almost
twenty years later,5 where Forrest’s thesis is challenged, but not completely
rejected. Strauss suggests that complaints about filial disobedience arose at a
time the sons were still mostly obedient rather than at a time when paternal
authority became seriously challenged. Had it not been so, the rhetoric of
1 W. R. Connor, e New Politicians of Fifth Century Athens (Princeton 1971), 17–151
(chapters Toward Revolution, Two New Developments, Youth in Command).
W. G. Forrest,An Athenian Generation Gap”, YCS  (1975), 7–5.
S. Bertman, ed., e Conflict of Generations in Ancient Greece and Rome (Amsterdam
1976), and therein especially: M. Reinhold, “Generation Gap in Antiquity”, 8–5; F.
Mench, “e Conflict Codes in Euripides’ Hippolytos”, 75–88; K. J. Reckford, “Father-
Beating in Aristophanes’ Clouds”, 89–118; F. Wasserman, “e Conflict of Generations
in ucydides”, 119–11; L. S. Feuer, “Generational Struggle in Plato and Aristotle”,
M. Ostwald, From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law. Law, Society, and Poli-
tics in Fifth-Century Athens (Berkeley–Los Angeles–London 1986), 9–5 (chapters
e Polarization of the 0s, e Generation Gap and the Sophists).
5 B. S. Strauss, Fathers and Sons in Athens. Ideology and Society in the Era of the Pelopon-
nesian War (London 199).
Balcanica XXXVIII
confrontation between father and son, as conveyed, for example, in Aris-
tophanes’ comedy Clouds, would not have elicited such a strong emotional
response from the audience.6 erefore, in Strauss’s view, the conflict be-
tween sons and fathers should rather be seen as a tension between the old
and the new.7 He assumes “the reign of youth” until 1 BC, followed by
the re-establishment of “the rule the father” in the aftermath of the disaster
of Sicily.8
What all these views have in common is the emphasis on the Pelo-
ponnesian War and the sophistic movement as factors conducive to inter-
generational conflict and destabilization of the traditional order and its val-
ues.9 e first part of this paper is, therefore, focused on these two factors.
ucydides is normally expected to be the foremost source for the
Peloponnesian War to turn to. ere are several places in ucydides indi-
cating differences between the old and young Athenians in their response
to the challenge of war.10 Preparing the Peloponnesian invasion of Attica
in the summer of 1 BC, Spartan king Archidamus II had calculated that
young Athenians would not just stand and watch their homeland being
ravaged, but that they would rise in protest and compel the whole polis to
engage in open battle.11 Indeed, the Athenian youth strongly pressed their
fellow citizens and the Athenian leadership to send the army against the
Peloponnesians. eir pressure failed to produce the intended result only on
account of Pericles’ authority.1
e same contrast between young and elderly is observable in several
places in ucydides in the context of Athens’ most crushing defeat the
Sicilian expedition. One finds Nicias’ speech contrasting youth and age in
order to warn against the perils of the expedition. From his direct appeal to
the elderly Athenians not to yield to youthful pressure to vote for war, the
wisdom of the elderly being superior to the young men’s thoughtlessness,
greed and lust for power and wealth, it appears that it was largely the young
who supported the campaign.1 A “young” supporter of the expedition, Al-
6 See Strauss, Fathers and Sons in Athens, 15, 16, 1 ff, 15.
7 Ibid., 15–16.
8 Ibid., 18–19, 176.
9 Ibid., 16.
10 Cf. H. Leppin, ukydides und die Verfassung der Polis. Ein Beitrag zur politischen Ideen-
geschichte des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Berlin 1999), 11.
11 uc. .0,1–.
1 uc. .1,–; see S. Hornblower, A Commentary on ucydides, vol. I (Oxford 1991),
1 uc. 6.1,; 1,1; HCT, IV, 6–8.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 9
cibiades, counters by pleading for cooperation between generations.1 e
mutilation of the herms and profanation of the Eleusinian mysteries, which
had taken place just before the fleet sailed for Sicily, had severe political
implications. Once again, these religious offences were brought into con-
nection with the younger generation.15 After the defeat in Sicily, one of the
first steps Athens took was to set up a board of ten magistrates (próbouloi)
over forty who were to thrash out all issues and draw up guidelines for the
Assembly.16 e intention was to prevent the Assembly from making over-
hasty and precarious decisions.17
According to ucydides, during the oligarchic coup of the Four Hun-
dred in 11 BC the young instigated violence, whereas the elderly sought
to alleviate tensions. us the young were held responsible for the murder
of Androcles, a democratic leader.18 When the Council of Five Hundred
was about to be dissolved, the Four Hundred took along some 10 young
Athenians in case the use of force proved necessary;19 or, when a group of
“moderate” oligarchs and young men led by eramenes and Aristocrates
set out to Piraeus to tear down the fortifications on Eetioneia, direct conflict
was avoided only owing to the conciliatory intervention of older citizens.0
e examples from ucydides show that there were intergenera-
tional differences in Athens inasmuch as the youth are described as reckless,
prone to violence and light-minded, whereas the elderly citizens are por-
trayed as experienced, moderate and level-headed in politics, but a funda-
mental generation gap does not seem inferable from his accounts. Namely,
ucydides reports on such intergenerational differences elsewhere in his
work in reference to other poleis whose constituions and histories were of-
ten completely different from those of Athens.1 It appears, therefore, that
his observations on Athens were universally applicable. us even before
the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, the Corinthian speech in Athens
1 uc. 6.17,1; 18,6–7.
15 uc. 6.8,1; see Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty, 57–550.
16 uc. 8.1,–; cf. H. Heftner, Der oligarchische Umsturz des Jahres 411 v. Chr. und
die Herrschaft der Vierhundert in Athen: Quellenkritische und historische Untersuchungen
(Frankfurt am Main 001), 6–16.
17 See K.-W. Welwei, Das klassische Athen. Demokratie und Machtpolitik im 5. und 4. Jahr-
hundert (Darmstadt 1999), 1–1.
18 uc. 8.65,.
19 uc. 8.69,.
0 uc. 8.9,6–10.
1 Leppin, ukydides, 11; Wasserman, “Conflict of Generations”, 11.
 Cf. Forrest, “Generation Gap”, 8.
Balcanica XXXVIII
pointed to the greater experience and knowledge of senior citizens in com-
parison with young people. One of the motives for a speech the Athenians
gave in Sparta, according to ucydides, was to teach the young what the
elderly had already known. ucydides observes that young men on both
warring sides were eager to take up arms.5 Spartan king Archidamus II
thought of the elderly citizens when he said that whoever had experienced
war could not be thrilled at such a prospect.6 Athenagoras, a democratic
leader in Syracuse, associated the threat of civil strife and oligarchic coup
with young men keen on taking power.7 is speech is all the more impor-
tant as its general and abstract nature suggests that it was not so much a
reflection of the situation in Syracuse as it was an expression of democratic
ideology in general.8 at ucydides does not provide sufficient evidence
for arguing for a fundamental generation gap may be seen from the Sicilian
debate in particular. Although Nicias and Alcibiades make a distinction be-
tween young and elderly, ucydides himself, when describing the motives
behind voting for the expedition, does not point at any fundamental inter-
generational difference ascribable to different socio-political backgrounds.
So, despite Nicias’ warnings, all Athenians were equally taken by an ardent
desire for the campaign.9 e elderly wanted to conquer the country or the
campaign to be successful, whereas the youth yearned for new vistas and
hoped for a safe return.0 According to ucydides, then, both generations
were driven by the motives typical of their respective age groups. Hence the
difference between them can be assumed to have been neither fundamental
in nature nor specific to Athens.
is perspective may find corroboration in Xenophon’s account of
the developments in Athens in 0–0 BC put forward in his Hellenica.
us Critias, the leader of the irty Tyrants, used his armed young follow-
 uc. 1.,1; cf. HCT, I, 175; Wasserman, “Conflict of Generations”, 119.
 uc. 1.7,1.
5 uc. .8,1.
6 uc. 1.80,1.
7 uc. 6.8,5; 9,; cf. HCT, IV, 0; 06. For the view that Hermocrates cannot be
classified as “young”, see H. D. Westlake, Essays on the Greek Historians and Greek His-
tory, chap. “Hermocrates the Syracusan” (Manchester 1969), 185; for a different view,
see Wasserman, “Conflict of Generations”, 11.
8 Leppin, ukydides, 90–9, esp. 9; there is also a view that Athenagoras’ speech does
not refer to the situation in Syracuse, but in Athens; cf. E. F. Bloedow, “e Speeches of
Hermocrates and Athenagoras at Syracuse in 15 B.C.: Difficulties in Syracuse and in
ucydides”, Historia 5 (1996), 11–158.
9 V. J. Hunter, ucydides. e Artful Reporter (Toronto 197), 1–1.
0 uc. 6.,.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 11
ers to force other council members into endorsing his indictment against
eramenes.1 When the democrats seized Phyle, several young men who
had joined the forces of the irty were the first to attack the fortress, though
unsuccessfully. at Xenophon, as well as ucydides, thought of audacity,
risk-taking behaviour and belligerence as characteristic of all young people
rather than only of the young Athenians can be seen from his interpretation
in Anabasis of the motives that prompted the leaders of Greek mercenar-
ies to join the campaign Cyrus the Younger launched against his brother
Artaxerxes II. Namely, they joined the campaign unaware of its purpose;
once they learnt it, they simply carried on despite its highly uncertain out-
come. Most of them were young men. A Beotian, Proxenus of ebes,
was about thirty when he was killed. He was a friend of Xenophon’s and a
student of Gorgias’. He saw the campaign as an honourable opportunity to
gain a good reputation, power and a fortune.5 Menon of Pharsalus in es-
saly craved the very same things, but, being unscrupulous, in reverse order.6
Both Agias of Arcadia and Socrates of Achaia were about thirty-five when
they lost their lives.7 Xenophon says nothing of their motives for joining
the campaign, but it may be assumed that their ambition was the same as
that of Proxenus and Menon. Xenophon himself, who also took part in the
expedition, was about thirty at the time. As he puts it – mature enough to
think he can ward off all harms from himself.8 He joined the campaign at
Proxenus’ invitation, hoping of becoming friendly with Cyrus the Younger.9
But, contrary to Socrates’ advice, he showed great carelessness, for Cyrus the
Younger was one of the Lacedaemonian main allies in the Peloponnesian
1 Xen. Hell. .,–; 50–51; on the brutality of the regime of the irty, unparalleled
in Athenian history, see A. Wolpert, “e Violence of the irty Tyrants”, in S. Lewis,
ed., Ancient Tyranny (Edinburgh 006), 1–.
 Xen. Hell. .,–; see P. Krentz, e irty at Athens (Ithaca–London 198), 7.
 For this characterization, see O. Lendle, Kommentar zu Xenophons Anabasis: (Bücher
1–7) (Darmstadt 1995), 1–15.
 Xen. Anab. .1,10; see also 1.,1; ,1–1; ,11–16.
5 Xen. Anab. .6,16–0.
6 He was proud of being a good liar and a cheater, and looked down on those who were
not describing them as “weak” and “uneducated” (Xen. Anab. .6,1–9); see Lendle,
Kommentar, 19–10. On Menon, see also T. S. Brown, “Menon of essaly”, Historia
5 (1986), 87–0.
7 Xen. Anab. .6,0.
8 Xen. Anab. .1,5.
9 Xen. Anab. .1, –10.
Balcanica XXXVIII
War.0 Interestingly, Xenophon asked the Delphi oracle: to what one of the
gods he should sacrifice and pray in order best and most successfully to perform the
journey which he had in mind, after meeting with good fortune, to return home
in safety.1 is question demonstrates not only that he and other campaign
leaders were like-minded, but also a way of thinking quite similar to the one
ucydides ascribes to the young men who joined the Sicilian expedition.
In Euripides’ Suppliant Women, staged in the tenth year of the Pelo-
ponnesian War (1 BC), young people’s recklessness is seen as one of the
main causes of the war and defeat. e dialogue between Adrastus, king
of Argos, and eseus, king of Athens, shows that Archidamus II’s plan for
the first invasion of Attica had good chances of success. e two kings agree
that many generals have suffered defeat because they were carried away by
the clamour of young people, and in that way great courage triumphs over
great wisdom. e poet criticizes the young for their arrogance and their
lust for power, honours and fortune pushing them into one war after anoth-
er without giving thought to other people and the harm they cause. And
yet, it cannot be inferred that Euripides has ever seriously thematized an in-
tergenerational conflict. e famous tragedian simply criticizes the typically
youthful characteristics. Hence his later appeal for the young to be forgiven,
since they must be forgiven, does not come as a surprise.5 In this tragedy
he even describes youthful recklessness as an enemy of tyrannical rule and
a friend of every good form of government, in this case democracy.6 Con-
trary to the widely-held belief, this drama shows that the contemporaries
did not always saw the young as inherently antidemocratic.
e ways in which ucydides, Xenophon and Euripides perceive the
difference between young and elderly as regards their attitudes towards the
war lead to several conclusions. Firstly, young people’s risk-taking behaviour,
self-delusion, inclination toward violence, hunger for fame and recklessness
made them susceptible to the harmful effects of war, all the more so as they
as a rule faced those effects at an age when human character is still being
formed. at is why the youth, unlike older generations, tended to engage
0 On Xenophon’s participation in the campaign of the Ten ousand as a contributing
factor in his being indicted in Athens, see M. Dreher, “Der Prozeß gegen Xenophon”,
in Chr. Tuplin, ed., Xenophon and his World (Stuttgart 00), 60–6.
1 Xen. Anab. .1,6 (transl. C. L. Brownson).
 Eurip. Suppl. 77 ff.
 Eurip. Suppl. 160–16.
 Eurip. Suppl.  ff.
5 Eurip. Suppl. 51–5.
6 Eurip. Suppl.  ff.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 1
more easily in international or domestic conflicts and, in doing so, were
quicker to use force. Secondly, for this reason, the youth were a destabilizing
rather than stabilizing factor. irdly, the abovementioned observations of
the ancient authors on the youthful attitude towards war being of a general
nature and amounting to traits common to all members of that age group,
they should not be taken as proving a generation gap in Athens in the third
part of the fifth century BC. e same appears to follow from, for example,
some of Aristotle’s observations.7
As for the relationship between the youth and the sophists, this paper
will focus on two sources in particular: Aristophanes’ Clouds and Xeno-
phon’s Memorabilia. Both works thematize the student–teacher relationship,
though in connection with Socratic philosophy and method rather than the
sophist movement itself, but that is not central to the subject here discussed.
Namely, Socrates’ manner of conducting a dialogue through questions and
answers had much in common with sophistic rhetoric, which is why Socrates
was often wrongly identified with the sophists by his contemporaries.8 An
excellent example is precisely Aristophanes, who identifies Socrates with
the sophists and criticizes his manner of presenting arguments.9
Xenophon’s Memorabilia was written several decades after Socrates’
death, but it is an important historical source nonetheless. A good part of
it is probably literary fiction, but it still provides many relevant data.50 It
becomes clear from this work that what Socrates wanted was to prepare
the young for an active political life: this can be seen from remarks made by
Socrates himself, for example in the dialogues with Antiphon and Euthyde-
mus,51 or from the example showing that Socrates sought to prepare young
members of the Athenian elite for political life, or the example showing
that young people were coming to him precisely for that reason.5 Apart
from this, Socrates was accused of being responsible for his former students’
political actions that made Athens suffer disastrous consequences.5
Taking into account this political aspect of Socrates’ teaching, Xe-
nophon makes every endeavour to defend his teacher from the accusations
7 Aristotle in his Rhetoric points out more than once that the youthful type of character
is more passionate, intemperate, gullible and honour-loving; and also prone to excess
both in loving and in hating (Aristot. Rhet. 189a 1 ff.).
8 See J. de Romilly, e Great Sophists in Periclean Athens (Oxford 199), 88–89.
9 See also Plat. Apol. 18b–d; 19c–0c; d.
50 Cf. P. Jaerisch, Xenophon, Erinnerungen an Sokrates, Übersetzung, Einführung und
Erläuterungen von P. Jaerisch (Munich–Zurich 1987), 0 ff.
51 Xen. Mem. 1.6,15; .,.
5 Xen. Mem. .1; 5; 7; ..
5 Xen. Mem. 1.,1.
Balcanica XXXVIII
of having exerted a bad influence on his students. us, he points out that
Socrates believed it important to teach the young prudence (sophrosýne) and
righteousness (dikaiosýne), rather than merely how to resourcefully achieve
success in practical politics.5 He shows that Socrates’ art of dialectical argu-
ment had an ethical purpose and that this clearly distinguished him from
sophistic rhetoric, which was mostly value neutral.55 Xenophon also sug-
gests that it is not the Socratic elenchus that poses a threat, but its abuse by
unscrupulous students.
e central significance Xenophon ascribes to the possible abuse of
Socrates’ elenchus can also be seen from his insistence on it in his portrayal
of Alcibiades and Critias.56 Critias is seen as the most violent, most merci-
less and greediest of all oligarchs, and Alcibiades, as the most violent, most
insolent and most self-willed of all democrats.57 As both of them belonged
to Socrates’ circle when they were young, the prosecutors blame Socrates
and his bad influence for their subsequent development.58 Xenophon de-
fends Socrates by insisting that the famous philosopher very much practised
the prudence he taught, and that the two were prudent and able to restrain
their passions for as long as they were in association with him.59 Besides,
Xenophon suggests that Critias and Alcibiades were the most ambitious
of all Athenians and interested in only one aspect of Socrates’ teachings
– how to achieve proficiency in oratory and action in the political domain.60
To them, the ethical aspect of his teaching was of little significance. How
they used, that is abused, what they had learned from Socrates is shown by
Xenophon through the conversation between Alcibiades and Pericles.61 Al-
cibiades, barely twenty at the time, uses the Socratic method to demonstrate
his wits to Pericles.6 Xenophon uses this example, which deals with the
5 Xen. Mem. .; ,1.
55 Sophistic rhetoric valued success more than the truth (see Plat. Phaedr. 67a; t.
16d–e; Gorg. 5d–55a; Aristot. Rhet. 10a 18–0); this does not mean that the
sophists advocated the unscrupulous use of rhetoric as a principle, but they certainly
contributed to the possibility of its being abused, see P. Woodruff, “Rhetorik und Rela-
tivismus: Protagoras und Gorgias”, in A. A. Long, ed., Handbuch frühe griechische Phi-
losophie. Von ales bis zu den Sophisten (Stuttgart 001), 6–8.
56 Xen. Mem. 1.,17.
57 Xen. Mem. 1.,1.
58 Xen. Mem. 1.,1.
59 Xen. Mem. 1.,17–18; –5.
60 Xen. Mem. 1.,1–16; 9; 7.
61 See D. M. Johnson, “Xenophon’s Socrates on Law and Justice”, Ancient Philosophy 
(00), 77–79.
6 Xen. Mem. 1.,0–6.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 15
question “what is law?”, to suggest that the Socratic method of questions
and answers, the ultimate goal of which is to find the truth, could be mis-
used in order to make the weaker argument the stronger, which then opens
the way for bringing value norms into question.
Interestingly, the problem of abuse is persistently highlighted in
Xenophon’s Memorabilia, as can be seen from the example cited above or
from the conversation between Euthydemus and Socrates.6 In his dialogue
with Euthydemus, Socrates observes that such gifted and energetic young
men, if lacking the education enabling them to differentiate between right
and wrong, can become most dangerous individuals and perpetrators of
heinous deeds.6 Socrates’ observation refers to Alcibiades and Critias too,
both fame loving, wealthy and proud of their origin.65 is lack of proper
education and the resulting susceptibility to negative influences of power
are, according to Xenophon, the main cause of their subsequent behaviour.
It is the example of Euthydemus that shows that Socrates wanted and was
able to prevent such ambitious young men from straying into the wrong
path. It is true that Euthydemus collected many sophistic works, thought
of himself as being superior to his peers and intended to start his career as
a statesman, but Socrates argued for good education as especially required
for a would-be statesman and eventually persuaded Euthydemus that it was
necessary for him to obtain real knowledge before taking an active part in
public life.66
All Xenophon’s examples illustrating Socrates’ relationship with
young people share a number of significant features. One is that many of
Socrates’ students were very young. Glaucus, for instance, was under twenty,
and Euthydemus was too young to attend the Assembly, let alone to speak
in it.67 Even so, young Athenians were ambitious and impatient to take an
active role in political life. Furthermore, these examples show that Socrates,
Xenophon and other contemporaries were acutely aware that the Socratic
art of dialectic argument was open to abuse. Xenophon’s account of how
Socrates was banned from meeting with young people and teaching con-
versation skills even under the irty led by a former student of his, Critias,
confirms that the contemporaries were taking this danger seriously.68 An-
6 Xen. Mem. .; ,1.
6 Xen. Mem. .1,–; cf. also Plat. Resp. 89d–95c, esp. 9b–c; 9c–d; 95a–b.
65 Xen. Mem. 1.,1; 5–6.
66 Xen. Mem. .,1; 11.
67 Xen. Mem. .6,1; .,1.
68 Xen. Mem. 1.,1; –9.
Balcanica XXXVIII
other feature common to all these examples is that the term “youth” is used
primarily for young honour-loving members of the elite.
Aristophanes’ Clouds is another excellent source for the subject stud-
ied here. Namely, being a comedy, it had to be not only understandable but
also closely familiar to a large number of Athenians.69 For the same reason,
of course, one should be careful when analyzing its comments on Socrates,
the sophists and their students, since the category of exaggeration and cari-
cature, as well as widespread prejudices, are amply and skilfully used in order
for the audience to find it comic.
Even a cursory glance at the Clouds and Memorabilia reveals that
they have several features in common. Young Phidippides, who becomes
Socrates’ student under his father Strepsiades’ pressure, is barely different
from Socrates’ students described by Xenophon. Just like them, Phidippides
is a young member of the Athenian elite, as obvious from his name and
demeanour.70 But, unlike Xenophon, Aristophanes avoids to highlight the
significant distinction between the philosophy and elenchus of Socrates,
and the teaching and art of persuasion of the sophists.71 at this is not
the result of the famous comedy writer’s ignorance may be seen not only
from Plato’s Symposium but also from the Clouds, where Socrates insists that
Strepsiades should learn other things before he masters the skill of turning
injustice into justice.7 Unlike the sophists and contemporary philosophers,
Socrates is famed for his daily communication with the Athenians regard-
69 Cf. P. v. Möllendorf, Aristophanes (Hildesheim 00), 1–5, esp. –5; Ch. Schubert, Die
Macht des Volkes und die Ohnmacht des Denkens. Studien zum Verhältnis von Mentalität
und Wissenschaft im 5. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Stuttgart 199), 77–78; J. Ober & B. Strauss,
“Drama, Political Rethoric, and Discourse of Athenian Democracy”, in J. J. Winkler
& F. I. Zeitlin, eds., Nothing to Do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in Its Social Context
(Princeton 1990), 8–0, 68–70.
70 Aristoph. Nub. 1–1; 5 ff.; 6 ff.; 119–10.
71 For Xenophon’s view of the sophists, see C. J. Classen, “Xenophons Darstellung der
Sophistik und der Sophisten”, Hermes 11 (198), 15–167.
7 Aristoph. Nub. 657 ff. e fact that Plato portrays Aristophanes as one of Socrates’
collocutors, and in the context of a complex philosophical theme such as eros, suggests
that Socrates’ teachings were not unfamiliar to Aristophanes (Plat. Symp. 189a–19d).
Plato’s Socrates in Gorgias argues for a completely different type of rhetoric from the
one advocated by the sophists and required by democracy, its purpose being true knowl-
edge rather than political success achieved by deception; see H. Yunis, Taming Democ-
racy. Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens (Ithaca–London 1996), 16–171; J.
Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens. Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (Princeton
1998), 190–1; Ch. Kahn, Plato and the Socratic Dialogue. e Philosophical Use of a Lit-
erary Form (Cambridge 1996), 1–15; cf. K. Maricki Gadjanski, “Helenski retori kao
političari”, in K. Maricki Gadjanski, ed., Istina – o istoriji (Belgrade 006), 55–57.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 17
less of their social status and education. Ironically, this is the most likely
reason that Aristophanes classified him as a “sophist” and that the common
people, unable to perceive the difference, tended to connect him with the
“new education”.7
In accordance with his portrayal of the “sophist” Socrates in a nega-
tive light, Aristophanes focuses on Socrates’ manner of presenting argu-
ments and its destructive consequences, as well as on weaker (unjust) and
stronger (just) speech.7 e aim is to show how weaker speech can easily
triumph even if it stands for injustice.75 In Clouds, one of the primary mo-
tives for pursuing oratorical training is to be successful in the Assembly,
which is another point that brings Aristophanes close to Xenophon.76 Al-
though Strepsiades is the first to go to Socrates for education, the dra-
matic emphasis is on the transformation undergone by his son Phidippides.
Namely, a “comic hero” from the outset,77 Strepsiades, being guided by his
own selfish interest rather than by moral principles, accepts Socrates’ advice
only insofar as he finds it useful. As a result, all attempts to teach Strepsia-
des end in failure. On the other hand, Strepsiades’ son Phidippides, who
becomes Socrates’ student only at his father’s insistence, undergoes a radical
transformation. A typical young aristocrat in a typically adolescent con-
flict with his father, Phidippides now begins to beat his father, using his
newly-acquired oratory skills to deny any responsibility for, and even to
justify, his misdeeds.78 e new model of education encourages Phidippides
to consciously break the traditional norms without even trying to hide it.
Moreover, this new model also provides Phidippides with efficient tools for
justifying his actions, that is, for making his wrongs pose as right.
at sophistic teaching above all endangers the young is empha-
sized in Clouds even before the son begins to beat his father, in the scene
resulting in Phidippides’ visiting Socrates. e focus is on a dialogue or a
competition between the allegorical figures of stronger (just) and weaker
7 Plat. Apol. 17c–d; 19c–0 c; d–a; e–a; 0a–b; 0e–1a; Aristoph. Ran. 191
ff.; see J. Henderson, “e Demos and Comic Competition”, in Winkler & Zeitlin, eds.,
Nothing to Do with Dionysos?, 0; cf. also R. B. Rutherford, e Art of Plato. Ten Essays
in Platonic Interpetation (London 1995), 1.
7 On oratory as central in the activity of the sophists, see J. Martin, “Zur Entstehung der
Sophistik”, Saeculum 7 (1976), 16; de Romilly, Great Sophists, 17; W. K. C. Guthrie,
A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. III (Cambridge 1969), –5, 7, 50–51, 176–199.
75 Aristoph. Nub. 11 ff.
76 For the political sphere as the primary activity area of sophistic rhetoric, see Plat. Prot.
18e–19a; Gorg. 5d–e; 66a–c.
77 Cf. Reckford, “Father-beating”, 96.
78 Aristoph. Nub. 11–150; 199–1.
Balcanica XXXVIII
(unjust) speech.79 e two speeches are confronted, and so are the educa-
tional models they stand for. e weaker speech questions the very existence
of justice.80 e stronger speech advocates the traditional model, the one
that produced the heroes of the Battle of Marathon, whereas the weaker
argues for a new model of education which corrupts young people. e
weaker argument emerges victorious from the competition due to the im-
moral and improper ideas it promotes. Hence it seems plausible that at the
time Clouds was playing the Athenians were aware of the negative impact
of sophistic teaching, manifested in its being abused by young members
of the Athenian elite.81 Aristophanes wittily shows that sophistic teach-
ing provided young men with some theoretical and practical instruments
for disputing the traditional system, but it did not provide them with new
political principles.8 Hence Clouds shows merely a typical conflict between
father and son – intensified through some new devices and occurrences, it
is true, but without producing a complete reversal of situation, i.e. a funda-
mental generation gap.
79 Aristoph. Nub. 886–111; see e Comedies of Aristophanes, edited with translation
and notes by Alan. H. Sommerstein, vol. III, chap. Aristophanes: Clouds” (Warminster
198), ad loc.
80 Aristoph. Nub. 900 ff.
81 As for the stronger and weaker speeches, it should be noted that the initial purpose of
the technique was not immoral. Namely, the initial purpose was to present both argu-
ments (thesis and antithesis) together, and not separately, in order to understand and
assess the objective circumstances in the best possible way; see F. H. Tenbruck, “Zur
Soziologie der Sophistik”, Neue Hefte für Philosophie 10 (1976), 67; de Romilly, Great
Sophists, 85–86; 88–89; Guthrie, Greek Philosophy, 181–188.
8 Young men primarily went to the sophists for learning the art of persuasion. at
some political principles were also involved, as suggested by Forrest, “Generation Gap”,
–, seems unlikely. Namely, the sophists put emphasis on the practical aspects of
teaching. us famous Gorgias saw himself merely as a teacher of rhetoric (Plat. Gorg.
9a–b; Men. 95c); see J. Dalfen, “Gorgias, Übersetzung und Kommentar von J. Dal-
fen”, in E. Heitsch & W. Müller, eds., Platon Werke: Übersetzung und Kommentar, vol.
VI/ (Göttingen 00), 18. Aristophanes and Xenophon also emphasize the connec-
tion between the young and the art of oratory; principles are not mentioned or are of
minor importance. e theory about the right of the stronger might have played a role,
but it was only mid-way through the Peloponnesian War that it took shape and none
of the sophists known to us was its proponent; see I. Jordović, Die Anfänge der Jüngeren
Tyrannis. Vorläufer und erste Repräsentanten von Gewaltherrschaft im späten 5. Jahrhundert
v. Chr. (Frankfurt am Main 005), 70–116. On the other hand, one cannot fail to notice
that the new type of education inspired a sense of superiority in young members of the
Athenian elite who had both the money and the time it required; see Forrest, “Genera-
tion Gap”, ; W. Donlan, e Aristocratic Ideal in Ancient Greece. Attitudes of Superiority
from Homer to the End of the Fifth Century B.C. (Lawrence, Kansas 1980), 159.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 19
One implication of this analysis of ucydides, Euripides, Xeno-
phon and Aristophanes may be that there was no severe generation gap in
Athens at the end of the fifth century BC. If this assumption is correct, the
question arises as to whether the notion “young” or “youth had other mean-
ings than the usual one, and what encouraged its use in Athens in the third
part of the fifth century BC.
Aristophanes’ comedy Wasps can help us further, especially because it
thematizes neither the war nor sophistic teaching, but the political situation
in Athens. Namely, there is again a generation gap, i.e. a conflict between
father and son.8 ere is a father, Lovecleon, an ardent supporter of the rule
of the demos, which is reflected in his passion for litigation and his suscep-
tibility to Cleons demagogy,8 and there is a son, Loathecleon, a young aris-
tocrat opposed to his father’s viewpoint.85 Unlike the other texts analyzed
here, however, the main target of criticism is not the young son, but the
father. Openly ridiculing Lovecleon’s addiction to litigation and fascina-
tion with Cleon in a number of comical situations, but above all through
Loathecleon’s own comments, Aristophanes clearly inclines towards the
son’s point of view. He not only attacks Cleon and the worst excesses of
democracy such as sycophantism and demagogy, but in fact rehabilitates
the young. e fact that Lovecleon begins to do all kinds of follies, hav-
ing undergone a transformation conforming to his son’s attitudes, does not
make an essential difference in that respect. Namely, the purpose of this part
of the play is to take a look at the negative aspects of the young aristocrats’
lifestyle. In this way Aristophanes shows that his critique, and hence young
Loathecleon’s critique, is unbiased and well-intentioned.86 at this is so is
supported by the fact that Loathecleon, in spite of his aristocratic traits, has
no intention of questioning the democratic system in principle. Moreover,
his wish to do away with its flaws indirectly portrays him as an honest sup-
8 A. Lesky, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, rd. ed. (Bern–Munich 1971), 91–
8 Aristoph. Vesp. 67–1; –; 17–50; 58–67; 76–110. On the role of dem-
agogy in Athens, see M. I. Finley, “Athenian Demagogues”, Past and Present 1 (196),
–; J. Bleicken, Die athenische Demokratie, th ed. (Paderborn–Munich–Vienna–Zu-
rich 1995), 0–09, 0.
85 Aristoph. Vesp. 51; 11–16; 197–181.
86 Aristoph. Vesp. 650–651; 79–7; 1015–1017. For this issue, see J. Spielvogel,
“Die politische Position des athenischen Komödiendichters Aristophanes”, Historia
5 (00), –; D. Konstan, Greek Comedy and Ideology (Oxford 1995), 5–7; Ober,
Political Dissent, 15–16; C. Tiersch, Demokratie und Elite. Zur Rolle und Bedeutung
der politischen Elite in der athenischen Demokratie (480 322 v. Chr.) (Dresden 006),
Balcanica XXXVIII
porter of democracy.87 Besides, Lovecleon’s follies make him the real hero
of the comedy; he is the victim of his own “silliness”, naiveté and good na-
ture. is becomes quite clear in light of the fact that the old man, until his
transformation, is quite aggressive in defending his position; which is why
the author uses the word wasps as an allegorical figure for him and his fel-
low-fighters, themselves members of the senior generation.88
is analysis leads to three conclusions. Firstly, that there was no
fundamental generation gap, or else Lovecleon’s transformation would not
have been possible at all. at this conclusion is not restricted to Wasps
is confirmed by Knights. In this comedy, awarded first prize by the Athe-
nian people in  BC, the resolution of the plot also brings about a trans-
formation. Initially, Demos is portrayed as a half-deaf old man, voracious,
morose, egotistical, liable to flattery, and consequently heavily influenced
by his Paphlagonian slave (i.e. demagogue Cleon).89 In the end, the old
Demos’ new servant, the Sausage-seller, restores him to his youth and wits,
and Demos re-embraces the values of the glorious generation that fought
against the Persians.90 Secondly, that Aristophanes’ intention in Wasps was
to show the youth as a constructive part of the democratic system. irdly,
that the word “young” or “the youth” may have been used as a defamatory
term, as is clearly seen from the fact that in Wasps the word “the young” (hoi
neóteroi) has negative connotations only when used to attack Cleon, who
was over fifty at the time.91 And this is not an isolated case. Diognetus,
Nicias’ brother, apparently was also about fifty in 1 BC, when Eupolis’
Demes described him as the most powerful of younger scoundrels.9 at
the term “young” in these cases does not have much to do with the charac-
ters’ actual age is also evidenced by Aristophanes’ Frogs, where Alcibiades,
although in his mid-forties at the time, is called a young lion, and in the
context of the questionable usefulness of his political abilities to Athens.9
Nowhere in the ancient sources, on the other hand, is Cimon reproached
87 Aristoph. Vesp. 650–7.
88 Aristoph. Vesp. 17–7; 0–6; 56; 6–511; 97–100; 1111–111.
89 Aristoph. Equ. 1–5; 0–7; 1–19; 6–68; 7–98; 111–1150; 10–155.
90 Aristoph. Equ. 11 ff.
91 at these verses refer to Cleon and to persons close to him (Hyperbolus) can be seen
from the fact that the accusation that he steals the tribute of the allies is identical to
Loathecleon’s accusation against the notorious demagogue (Aristoph. Vesp. 1005–1007;
1100; 111–111); cf. Strauss, Fathers and Sons in Athens, 18. For the probable date
of Cleon’s birth, see J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families 600–300 B.C. (Oxford
1971), 19.
9 Eupolis frg. 1b–c (Edmonds), see Reinhold, “Generation Gap”, 5.
9 Aristoph. Ran. 11–11
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 1
for being young at the beginning of his career, although he was in his early
thirties at the time of the victory at Mycale.9 What all these examples have
in common is that the word “young” is used in the context of denouncing
or condemning individuals for their selfish and unscrupulous political ac-
tions which endanger the interests of the state. erefore, it seems justified
to believe that the contemporaries often used the term “young” or “youth” as
synonymous with ruthless and egotistic policies, which in turn explains why
Nicias described Alcibiades as young in ucydides’ Sicilian debate.
Of course, such justified critiques or unjustified defamations would
not make any sense if they did not rely, at least in part, on reality or on the
reality as perceived by the contemporaries. Indeed, that period witnessed
political change in Athens, which is why W. R. Connor has introduced the
term “new politicians” to describe Cleon, Cleophon, Hyperbolus and oth-
ers of the kind.95 e newness of the political style they promoted was even
more conspicuous as the chronically volatile political situation in Athens –
as a result of the Peloponnesian War and Pericles’ death – was fertile ground
for political radicalism.96 Some of the politicians who entered politics at this
period were indeed very young. For instance, Hyperbolus was barely thirty
when he started his political career; but, unlike Alcibiades, who was in his
mid-twenties when he first became involved in politics, he did not have
high social status that might explain or justify, at least to an extent, his early
entrance into politics.97 To all appearances, these were not solitary cases.98
is circumstance can be helpful in explaining why the contempo-
raries used the term “young” to condemn the tendencies and practices that
were seen as a threat to the established social and political order, but it
certainly is not the only explanation. Some other circumstances, which have
not been in the focus of scholarly attention, seem to have played a role as
well. In a traditional society, such as Athens was, the antiquity of customs,
rules, institutions or views as a rule is taken as a very important proof of
their rightness.99 is is evidenced, for example, by the attempt to relate
9 See Strauss, Fathers and Sons in Athens, 18.
95 Connor, New Politicians, xi.
96 For destabilizing effects of the Peloponnesian War, such as stasis, fluctuations within
the elite or power concentration, see Jordović, Anfänge der Jüngeren Tyrannis, –69.
97 Eupolis frg. 8; 10; 90; Cratinus frg. 6; cf. Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty, ;
Connor, New Politicians, 18; on Alcibiades, see uc. 5.,.
98 Cf. Connor, New Politicians, 17–19.
99 Cf. G. Beyrodt, “Orte, Nichtorte und Tyrannis”, in W. Pircher & M. Treml, eds.,
Tyrannis und Verführung (Vienna 000), ; D. Boedecker, “Presenting the Past in
Fifth-Century Athens”, in D. Boedeker & K. A. Raaflaub, eds., Democracy, Empire, and
the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge MA–London 1998), 19–19.
Balcanica XXXVIII
the political concept of pátrios politeía, which did not emerge until the late
fifth century BC, to Solon’s reforms in order to make its rightness obvious
to everyone.100 Traditional societies also tend to equate advanced age with
desirable traits such as wisdom, experience, forethought, steadiness, etc. It is
not surprising, then, to find that traits and phenomena considered as harm-
ful are associated with the young.
ree factors gave impetus to this development. In the first place,
some of these phenomena, such as demagogy and sophistic teaching, were
new.101 Secondly, Pericles’ death and the Peloponnesian War, marking a crit-
ical moment in Athenian history, must have produced some effects, as ob-
served even by the contemporaries.10 is, of course, additionally strength-
ened the impression that the phenomena were new even if some were not,
at least not entirely. After all, the Peloponnesian War did add force to their
destructive aspects.10 irdly, it was the young that were the most suscep-
tible to the harmful effects of the war and other destructive influences shak-
ing up Athenian society.
Finally, there is the question of what has led scholars to believe that
there was an intergenerational conflict in Athens in the late fifth century
BC. Perhaps the answer may be found in Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds,
commonly used as one of the major arguments for the generation gap the-
sis. is, however, is not the only relevant feature of this play. What may
also be considered important is that Clouds could create an impression – as
indicated by Socrates himself in Plato’s Apology10 – that Socrates was held
responsible for such a conflict even in his lifetime, given that his was accused
100 Cf. J. T. Roberts, Athens on Trial. e Antidemocratic Tradition in Western ought
(Princeton 199), 60–6; D. Haßkamp, Oligarchische Willkür – demokratische Ordnung.
Zur athenischen Verfassung im 4. Jahrhundert (Stutgartt 005), . On the political mo-
tivation for pushing the concept of patrios politeia back into the Athenian past, see P. J.
Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford 1981), 76–77.
101 Not that they were a complete novelty; but they were perceived as new because it
was then that their negative aspects became manifest; see R. W. Wallace, “e Sophists
in Athens”, in Boedecker & Raaflaub, eds., Democracy, Empire, and the Arts, 0–;
Chr. Mann, Die Demagogen und das Volk. Zur politischen Kommunikation im Athen des 5.
Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Berlin 007), 75–96.
10 uc. 1.1. is can be identified with the opinion that the Peloponnesian War caused
an abrupt and fundamental political and social change; cf. P. Cartledge, “e Effects of
the Peloponnesian (Athenian) War on Athenian and Spartan Societies”, in D. R. Mc-
Cann & B. S. Strauss, eds., War and Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Korean War
and the Peloponnesian War (Armonk, New York 001), 10–1.
10 An excellent example is the right-of-the-stronger theory, see Jordović, Anfänge der
Jüngeren Tyrannis, 8–116.
10 Plat. Apol. 18b–d; 19c–0c; d.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 
of corrupting the Athenian youth.105 is accusation was untrue, of course,
but not any the less influential: Socrates was eventually brought to trial and
sentenced to death. It seems, therefore, that it is Socrates’ destiny that has
led modern scholars to accept the generation gap thesis as fact based; oth-
erwise the famous philosopher would not have been accused of corrupting
the young, let alone sentenced.106 Even though not all modern scholars take
this trial as the key argument for the generation gap thesis, it has inevitably
had impressed itself upon them.107 e most obvious reason is that this is
probably the best-known trial in the history of the classical world.
Perhaps an even more influential factor directly and indirectly con-
tributing to the development of the generation gap thesis is that Socrates’
followers themselves attached great importance to the count of the indict-
ment charging their teacher with corrupting the young. What can be seen
as a direct contribution is that this charge tended to be overblown in their
defence of Socrates; as a result, other motives behind the indictment re-
mained inadequately elucidated.108 us, seeking to defend his teacher the
best he could, Plato in his Apology avoids going deeper into the motivation
of the prosecution and the nature of the indictment;109 instead, he offers a
quite general portrayal of Socrates as the only true educator in Athens.110
105 e philosopher corrupting the youth was to become a topos of comedy, which
indicates an exceptional influence of Clouds, cf. P. Scholz, Der Philosoph und die Politik.
Die Ausbildung der philosophischen Lebensform und die Entwicklung des Verhältnisses von
Philosophie und Politik im 4. und 3. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Stuttgart 1998), 9–50; Ostwald,
Popular Sovereignty, 77.
106 See Strauss, Fathers and Sons in Athens, 5; K. Robb,Asebeia and Sunousia. e Issues
behind the Indictment of Socrates”, in G. A. Press, ed., Plato’s Dialogues. New Stud-
ies and Interpretations (Lanham 199), 77–106 esp. 97–10; E. A. Havelock, e Muse
Learns to Write (New Haven 1986), –5.
107 Its influence on W. G. Forrest is best seen from his choice of Callicles as one of the
best examples favouring his thesis (“Generation Gap”, ); see also Reinhold, “Gen-
eration Gap”, 7–8; Reckford, “Father-beating”, 89; 106–107; Feuer, “Generational
Struggle”, 1–1; Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty, 5–6. For the influence of Plato’s
portrayal of Socrates, see J. P. Euben, Corrupting Youth. Political Education, Democratic
Culture and Political eory (Princeton 1997).
108 Cf. Scholz, Der Philosoph und die Politik, 6; R. A. Baumann, Political Trials in An-
cient Greece (London–New York 1990), 106–107.
109 E. Heitsch, Apologie des Sokrates, Übersetzung und Kommentar von E. Heitsch, in E.
Heitsch and W. Müller, eds., Platon Werke: Übersetzung und Kommentar, vol. I/ (Göt-
tingen 00), 19.
110 E. DE Strycker, Plato’s Apology of Socrates. A Literary and Philosophical Study with
a Running Commentary. Edited and Completed from the Papers of the Late E. DE
Strycker by S. R. Slings (Leiden 199), 8–1; cf. also J. Ober,e Athenian Debate
Balcanica XXXVIII
A similar tendency can be found in Xenophon’s Apology,111 which also deals
with the indictment in a quite general way, focusing on the charge of asébeia
and corrupting the young, and insisting on Socrates’ moral superiority dem-
onstrated before and during the trial.11 is approach to the background
and course of the trial becomes all the more conspicuous as Xenophon’s
Memorabilia views Socrates’ association with Alcibiades and Critias in their
youth as an overriding factor for the sentence, which it probably was.11
e indirect ways in which Socrates’ followers have helped develop
the generation gap thesis are subtler, and hence more effective. Unlike Apol-
ogy, Xenophon’s Memorabilia touches upon the background of the indict-
ment inasmuch as it seeks to show that Socrates’ influence on Critias and
Alcibiades at the time of their youthful association with him was positive.11
Not even there, however, does Xenophon attempt to expose the actual po-
litical background of the trial. In all probability, that was not possible any-
way: in the aftermath of Athens’ defeat and the downfall of the regime
of the irty, because of the Athenians’ bitter resentment against the two
notorious politicians, and later on because their negative image had be-
come embedded in the public mind.115 Moreover, such an attempt would
only have been counterproductive. Instead, Xenophon uses many other ex-
amples, such as Euthydemus or Glaucus, struggling to prove that Socrates’
influence on ambitious young people was generally positive. One conse-
quence of his bringing so many examples into play, however, is the impres-
sion that Alcibiades and Critias were not solitary cases but part of a broader
phenomenon. Plato’s Gorgias reflects the same tendency, but it is even less
overt and, consequently, more effective. A young member of the Athenian
elite and Socrates’ main opponent, Callicles has much in common with Al-
over Civic Education”, in Yun Lee Too, ed., Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity
(Brill 001), 179 ff.
111 For the links between Xenophon and Plato, see R. Waterfield, “Xenophon’s Socratic
Mission”, in Tuplin, ed., Xenophon and his World, 79–11.
11 Xen. Apol. ; 5; –; .
11 See Strycker/Slings, Plato’s Apology, 9–95; Scholz, Der Philosoph und die Politik, 79
note 6; M. Munn, e School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates (Berkeley–Los An-
geles 000), 89–91. More than fifty years later Aeschines (Aeschin. 1,17) states that
the Athenians sentenced Socrates to death because he had been the teacher of Critias,
the leader of the irty.
11 See V. J. Gray, e Framing of Socrates: e Literary Interpretation of Xenophon’s Mem-
orabilia (Stuttgart 1998), 1–59, esp. 8.
115 On the power of such images, see A. Wolpert, Remembering Defeat. Civil War and
Civic Memory in Ancient Athens (Baltimore 00), where the problem is studied on the
example of the collective memory of the regime of the irty.
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 5
cibiades and Critias, which is why he has often been identified with them
by scholars.116 Still, Plato makes a conscious effort to shape the character as
“neutral” as possible, which is why his Callicles has often been interpreted as
epitomizing a whole generation.117 Plato’s intention is to demonstrate that
the differences between Callicles and the likes of him on the one hand, and
Socrates on the other are essential and unbridgeable.118 at the positions
of Callicles and Socrates are diametrically opposed is underscored by the
emphasis on Callicles’ corruption; he is portrayed as supporting not only
the nomosphysis antithesis, but also the right-of-the-stronger doctrine.119
e same intention is observable in the account of Socrates’ failure, despite
his great effort, to re-educate Callicles in accordance with his moral prin-
What also prompted Xenophon and Plato to use such an approach
in their defence was the fact that the amnesty of 0/ BC had made it
impossible for the prosecutors to pursue their political agenda overtly,11 so
116 E. R. Dodds, Plato, Gorgias, a Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary (Ox-
ford 1959), 1; O. Apelt, “Platons Dialog Gorgias”, in O. Apelt, ed., Platon, Sämtliche
Werke, vol. 1, Herausgegeben und mit Einleitungen, Literaturübersichten, Anmerkun-
gen und Registern versehen von O. Apelt (Hamburg 1998), 167–168, note 1; S. Kriegs-
baum, Der Ursprung der von Kallikles in Platons Gorgias vertretenen Anschauungen (Pade-
born 191), 7–8; W. Jaeger, Paideia, Die Formung des Menschen, vol. 1 (Berlin 195),
10; C. Roßner, Recht und Moral bei den griechischen Sophisten (Munich 1998), 177–178;
Guthrie, Greek Philosophy, 99; M. Vickers, “Alcibiades and Melos: ucydides 5.8–
116”, Historia 9 (1999), 67–68.
117 Cf. D. Gribble, Alcibiades and Athens: A Study in Literary Presentation (Oxford 1999),
5, and notes 6 and 6. All Callicles’ traits are present in Alcibiades too: he is young,
a member of the elite, abuses sophistic learning and is thirsty for power; cf. Jordović,
Anfänge der Jüngeren Tyrannis, 99–108. For the view that Callicles is not a fictitious
character, see Dodds, Plato, Gorgias, 1; K. F. Hoffmann, Das Recht im Denken der So-
phistik (Stuttgart–Leipzig 1997), 111–11. On Callicles as epitomizing one generation,
or the generation’s worst traits, see note 106 above.
118 Plat. Gorg. 86d–88b; 85a–e; 500c; see also 86a–b; 519a–b; cf. Dalfen, “Gorgias”,
; 01.
119 In his Memorabilia Xenophon also emphasizes the corruption of Alcibiades and
Critias in order to better defend Socrates; see Gray, Framing of Socrates, 8.
10 Plat. Gorg. 51c; cf. E. Buzzetti, e Injustice of Callicles and the Limits of Socra-
tes’ Ability to Educate a Young Politician”, Ancient Philosophy 5 (005), 5–7; Ober,
Political Dissent, 0, 1.
11 Aristot. Ath. pol. 9,6; see M. Chambers,Aristoteles, Staat der Athener, Übersetzt
und erläutert von M. Chambers”, in Aristoteles Werke in Deutscher Übersetzung, vol. 10/1
(Berlin 1990), 18; Rhodes, Commentary, 1981, 68–7. For the conciliation agree-
ment, see . C. Loening, e Reconciliation Agreement of 403/402 B.C. in Athens: Its
Content and Application (Stuttgart 1987); A. Dössel, Die Beilegung innerstaatlicher Kon-
Balcanica XXXVIII
they proceeded behind the veil of Socrates’ indictment for corrupting the
young.1 It is not surprising, then, that the Socratists chose a similar ap-
proach, especially because it was easier to defend Socrates in that way. An
undoubtedly important role was played by the fact that both Xenophon’s
Memorabilia and Plato’s Apology were conceived in part as a response to a
defamatory pamphlet of the sophist Polycrates.1
is analysis leads us to suggest that a generation gap in Athens at
the end of the fifth century BC should be ruled out. is does not imply
that the young and the elderly did not respond differently to the challenges
and novelties that caused a stir in the private and public spheres in Ath-
ens at the time, but simply that the intergenerational differences did not
become a subject of politics or a political factor. Perhaps the most striking
argument against the widely established view that there was a gap is offered
by the Athenians themselves: they thought Clouds were good enough only
for third place at the Dionysia in  BC, and Aristophanes complained
that his fellow-citizens had failed to grasp the gist of his play.1 What adds
weight to his complaint is the fact that the part of Clouds where the just and
unjust speeches and their opposing views on proper education come into
conflict was written several years after the first performance, most probably
to underpin the central theme of the play.15
History Department
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Novi Sad
Institute for Balkan Studies
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
flikte in den griechischen Poleis vom 5.–3. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Frankfurt am Main 00),
89–16, esp. 89–11.
1 Robb, “Asebeia and Sunousia”, 10–105; Strycker/Slings, Plato’s Apology, 9; Munn,
School of History, 79–80; B. S. Strauss, Athens after the Peloponnesian War. Class, Fac-
tion and Policy 403–386 BC (London 1986), 95. For the dilemmas and problems the
amnesty caused in Athens, see Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty, 500–509.
1 Guthrie, Greek Philosophy, 1; Dodds, Plato, Gorgias 8–9; Rutherford, Art of Plato,
1 Aristoph. Vesp. 107–105; see Reckford, “Father-beating”, 90, note .
15 See F. Heinimann, Nomos und Physis. Herkunft und Bedeutung einer Antithese im grie-
chischen Denken des 5. Jahrhunderts (Basel 195), 11.
UDC 94(38 Athina):316.343.36]”-04”
I. Jordović, A Generation Gap in Late Fifth-Century-BC Athens 7
Aeschin. Aeschines
Aristoph. Aristophanes
Equ. Equites
Nub. Nubes
Ran. Ranae
Vesp. Vespae
Aristot. Aristotle
Ath. pol. Athenaion politeia
Rhet. Rhetorica
Eurip. Euripides
Suppl. Supplices
Plat. Plato
Apol. Apologia
Gorg. Gorgias
Men. Menon
Phaedr. Phaedrus
Prot. Protagoras
Resp. Respublica
Symp. Symposium
t. eaetetus
uc. ucydides
Xen. Xenophon
Anab. Anabasis
Apol. Apologia Socratis
Hell. Hellenica
Mem. Memorabilia
HCT A. W. Gomme, A. Andrewes & K. J. Dover, A Historical Commentary
on ucydides, 5 vols., Oxford 1956–1981.
The Classical Athenians were the first to articulate and implement the notion that ordinary citizens of no particular affluence or education could make responsible political decisions. For this reason, reactions to Athenian democracy have long provided a prime Rorschach test for political thought. Whether praising Athens's government as the legitimizing ancestor of modern democracies or condemning it as mob rule, commentators throughout history have revealed much about their own notions of politics and society. In this book, Jennifer Roberts charts responses to Athenian democracy from Athens itself through the twentieth century, exploring a debate that touches upon historiography, ethics, political science, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender studies, and educational theory.
Not that they were a complete novelty; but they were perceived as new because it was then that their negative aspects became manifest; see
  • R W Wallace
Not that they were a complete novelty; but they were perceived as new because it was then that their negative aspects became manifest; see R. W. Wallace, "The Sophists in Athens", in Boedecker & Raaflaub, eds., Democracy, Empire, and the Arts, 0-;
Recht und Moral bei den griechischen Sophisten
  • C Roßner
C. Roßner, Recht und Moral bei den griechischen Sophisten (Munich 1998), 177–178;
Greek Philosophy, 99 Alcibiades and Melos: Thucydides 5
  • Guthrie M Vickers
Guthrie, Greek Philosophy, 99; M. Vickers, " Alcibiades and Melos: Thucydides 5.8– 116 ", Historia 9 (1999), 67–68.
86d–88b; 85a–e; 500c; see also 86a–b; 519a–b; cf. Dalfen
  • Plat
  • Gorg
Plat. Gorg. 86d–88b; 85a–e; 500c; see also 86a–b; 519a–b; cf. Dalfen, " Gorgias ", ; 01. 119
Aristoteles, Staat der Athener, Übersetzt und erläutert von M. Chambers For the conciliation agreement , see Th. C. Loening, The Reconciliation Agreement of 403
  • Aristot
  • Ath
Aristot. Ath. pol. 9,6; see M. Chambers, " Aristoteles, Staat der Athener, Übersetzt und erläutert von M. Chambers ", in Aristoteles Werke in Deutscher Übersetzung, vol. 10/1 (Berlin 1990), 18; Rhodes, Commentary, 1981, 68–7. For the conciliation agreement, see Th. C. Loening, The Reconciliation Agreement of 403/402 B.C. in Athens: Its Content and Application (Stuttgart 1987); A. Dössel, Die Beilegung innerstaatlicher
On the role of demagogy in Athens, see M. I. Finley
  • Aristoph
  • Vesp
Aristoph. Vesp. 67-1; -; 17-50; 58-67; 76-110. On the role of demagogy in Athens, see M. I. Finley, "Athenian Demagogues", Past and Present 1 (196), -;