Before "Demokratía"? Aeschylus’ "Suppliants" and the Language of the Political Community


  • Maurizio Giangiulio University of Trento



political community, collective decision-making, power of the citizens, force of the assembly vote, demokratía, democratic political regime


It is by no means certain that in Aeschylus’ Suppliants demokratía is regarded as a political regime controlled by the people. The tragedy emphasises the language of political community and collective decision-making, and the word ‘demokratía’ itself is replaced by a phrase t hat h ighlights the dominant force of the assembly vote, which is not equivalent. The Suppliants reflects the civic consciousness of the decades following the  Persian Wars, in which the sense of community, pride in numbers, and the practice of collective decision-making became particularly salient.
There were also opposite tendencies: in the 470s, wealthy and high-ranking families called their scions Democrates, not to celebrate the power of the people, but to evoke power ‘over the people’. All the more significantly, the emphasis in the Suppliants is on the polis as a political community and a numerous totality, rather than the power of an individual. Admittedly, the power of the people of Argos is relevant, but it is the power of the demion, which refers to the political community as a whole. The focus is on the collective of citizens, rather than the democratic regime.