Uproar and Deliberation: Popular Sovereignty in Classical Athens

Special Report: Participating in History
By Noémie Villacèque

When the Athenian regime’s opponents accused citizens of behaving like spectators and the orators of being like actors (all the better to seduce them), this was in no way a stab at the passivity of the demos. It is, on the contrary, a disapproval of its fervent participation. Examining this topos requires us to reevaluate our conception of deliberation. While those who speak on stage are always members of the elite, ordinary citizens, unwilling to remain silent, take part in the deliberation by creating an uproar. Thus, the power of decision remains, indirectly, with the audience.


  • Athenian democracy
  • assembly
  • deliberation
  • uproar
  • participation
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