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Ancient Democracy in a Modern World

With Dr. Paul Keen Sunday March 31, 2019 2:00-4:00 p.m. Sibley Hall, Groton Public Library.

Dr. Paul Keen will focus on the institutional and culture background of the Athenian democracy from its origins through the fourth century BC and its reception in modernity by the American founding fathers and today. In contrast with the representative democracy of the United States, the Athenian democracy was instead a direct democracy in which citizens voted directly on all important matters and decisions presented to the state. This form of direct governance horrified many of the writers of the American constitution, well-versed as they were in the writings of ancient thinkers—including Thucydides and Plato—who were deeply skeptical of the Athenian democracy. Nonetheless, the radical Athenian experiment in popular governance and rule offers poignant models for us to reflect on in our own times, particularly in towns, like Groton, that make use of an open town meeting form of governance.

Dr. Keen is a historian of the political and economic history of the ancient Mediterranean at UMass Lowell, where he is currently an Assistant Professor of History. His work focuses on the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms of the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC). Keen has also been active in field archaeology and is currently at work as a site numismatist with the Kourion Urban Space Program and the Kyrenia Ship Publication Project. He regularly teaches classes in Greek and Roman history as well as a graduate seminar on Athenian Democracy and Democratic Culture.

Co-sponsored by the Groton Public Library and the Groton History Center

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