Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

[ link colors: Demos | External Source | Citation to Evidence| Word Tools ]

Demos Home


Adikia and Dike (Injustice and Justice).

Anangke (Necessity).

Arete (Excellence, Valor).

Basileia (Kingdom, Sovereignty, or Monarchy).

Boule (Council).

→ Demokratia (Democracy).

Demos (Populace) of Athens.

Demoi of demes.

Demoi of foreign cities.

Eirene (Peace).

Eukleia (Good Repute).

Eunomia (Good Order).

Eutaxia (Good Order).

Hellas (Greece).

Harmonia (Harmony).

Nemesis (Retribution).

Homonoia (Concord).

Oligarchia (Oligarchy).

Peitho (Persuasion).

Philia (Friendship).

Phyle/Phylai (Tribe/s).

Soteria (Salvation).


(Agathe) Tyche (Good Fortune).

Further Reading.

Index of Citations

General Index

Demos Home

Athenian Political Art from the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE: Images of Political Personifications 

Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003

page 7 of 26

· Demokratia (Democracy) ·


Read about the evidence
Herodotus (Hdt.).
Thucydides (Thuc.).
Andocides (Andoc.).
Demosthenes (Dem.).
Plot on a Map

Discussion: In the late fourth century Demokratia may have been worshipped with Tyche and Eirene. An inscription records offerings (in 333/2 and 332/1) to these three goddesses, among others (IG II2, 1496.107, 127, 131, 140-41). As with Eirene and Tyche, the term demokratia, δημοκρατία, was first discussed in the middle of the fifth century, when Herodotus connected the establishment of the Athenian democracy with Cleisthenes’ tribal reforms of 508 (Hdt. 6.43.3, 6.131.1). Demokratia became a catchword during the Periclean era (440s-430s), when it came to be defined in opposition to oligarchia (oligarchy): in Pericles’ “Funeral Oration” Thucydides defines demokratia as a form of government “run with a view to the interests of the majority, not of the few” (Thuc. 2.37.1). This polarization of Demokratia and Oligarchia may have been represented in the visual arts, on the “Tomb of Kritias” [1]. This tomb, probably a group cenotaph, was decorated either with a sculpture group or a relief that showed Oligarchia setting fire to Demokratia with a torch. If the scholiast who noted this unusual tomb illustration was right, this earliest known personification of Demokratia would predate our first indication of the worship of Demokratia (in the 330s). Critias died in 403 in the battle against Thrasybulus that brought about the deposition of The Thirty Tyrants who were responsible for the oligarchy at Athens that year. Because of the change in the law codes, the concept of demokratia took on a new significance in the fourth century. The response of the democrats to the terrible reign of the The Thirty was the enactment of legislation which, for the first time, explicitly affirmed a democratic government, in the restored new democracy of 403/2. The decrees of the Boule and Demos were subordinated to the nomoi (established laws) (Andoc. 1.87; cf. Dem. 24.30), and the final validation of the nomoi was relinquished by the Assembly to the Nomothetai, a special board of individuals who had sworn to uphold the established laws (Dem. 20.92-94). Thus in the new democracy, the populace, the Demos, subordinated itself to the Laws themselves.

Plot on a Map

Demokratia was personified on several lost mid-fourth century art works. The most famous is a wall painting in the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, in the Athenian Agora, by Euphranor of Isthmia, on which Demokratia appeared with Theseus and Demos [2]. According to Pausanias this painting showed that Theseus brought political equality to the Athenians. It is indeterminate whether this message was effected by the illustration of Theseus giving Demokratia (in marriage) to Demos, or Demokratia crowning Demos, as shown on the anti-tyranny decree from the Agora [3]. That relief, which Anthony Raubitschek thought might be a reflection of Euphranor’s painting, decorates a decree of the Nomothetai. The decree prohibited the Areopagus from functioning under a tyrant and reflects the paranoia of the democrats in the aftermath of Athens’ defeat by Macedonia in the battle of Chaironeia (338). Whether or not it mimicked the image on Euphranor’s painting, the illustration of Demos and Democracy on this relief is appropriate given the repeated pairing of the two political entities in the text of the attached decree.

An inscribed statue base, also found in the Athenian Agora, attests a statue of Demokratia that was set up in 333/2, coincidentally at the same time as the earliest attestation of Demokratia’s cult [5]. Despite this coincidence of dates, the statue base cannot be attributed with any certainty to the worship that Demokratia may have received in the Agora. Although Olga Palagia suggested that the monumental Agora torso [4] might have been this same statue of Demokratia (Palagia 1982, 111), she has since recanted, as the statue would have been too large for the base (Palagia 1994, 117).


Read about the evidence
Scholia (Sch. Aeschin.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
Plot on a Map

  1. Oligarchia setting fire to Demokratia, on a grave monument (a statue or a relief), on the tomb of Critias at Athens, after 403 (Sch. Aeschin. 1.39).
  2. A wall painting in the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios (Agora, Athens), by Euphranor of Isthmia, ca. 350 BCE, with representations of Demokratia and Demos (Paus. 1.3.3-4).
  3. Athens, Agora I 6524: a female figure crowning Demos on a relief from a decree of the nomothetai (SEG 12.87), an Athenian law against tyranny, 337/6.
  4. Agora S 2370: colossal statue of a goddess, ca. 335-330, perhaps Demokratia, Themis, or Tyche (shown above).
  5. Athens, EM 3913: inscribed base (IG II2, 2791) for a statue dedicated in 333/2, probably representing Demokratia. (Although the dedicatory inscription does not specify a statue of Demokratia, another inscription, Athens, EM 12749, a slightly later decree of 306/5, mentions a statue of Demetrios Poliorketes to be placed next to a statue of Demokratia in the Agora).

[ back to top ]

page 7 of 26