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Seminar Greek/Ancient Philosophy: Contested Democracy


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (specialization Classics). Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


Democracy is often hailed as one of the major contributions that the Greeks made to Western civilisation. Yet from the very moment that the Athenians took the revolutionary step to adopt this unprecedented political system, it was much contested by all kinds of authors, both literary and philosophical ones, ranging from the somewhat mysterious ‘Old Oligarch’, the historians Herodotus (the so-called constitution debate) and Thucydides (e.g. the start of the Sicilian expedition in book VI and Pericles’ necrology) to drama (e.g. Euripides Suppliants) and comedy (e.g. Aristophanes Knights) and the philosophers Plato (e.g. Gorgias, Republic) and Aristotle (e.g. Athenian Constitution). In this course we shall discuss and analyse the critical discourse on the issue of democracy from literary, linguistic and philosophical perspectives. The aims of our seminar are: (i) to answer the question which aspects of democracy gave rise to a contestation of its value; (ii) to investigate in which cultural and textual contexts the debate about democracy tends to arise; (iii) what persuasive functions debates about democracy fulfil.

Course objectives

  • Training in the analysis of Greek texts and scholarly literature;

  • Training in the oral and written presentation of the results of scholarly research.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Written paper: 5 EC / 140 hours
Oral presentation: 3 EC / 84 hours
Greek pensum: 2 EC (= 60 pp.) / 56 hours
Total: 10 EC / 280 hours

Assessment method

Participation: 10%
Oral exam: 20%
Oral presentation: 30%
Paper: 40%


In this course we make use of Blackboard (distribution of course materials; communication with participants).

Reading list

A reading list will be supplied at the beginning of the course.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.


Dhr. Dr. R.M. van den Berg
Dhr. Dr. A.M. Rademaker


The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.