The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America

Eli Sagan, Author Basic Books $27 (429p) ISBN 978-0-465-03058-3
In its enslavement and occasional genocide of captured cities, ancient Athens ``matched any of the barbarisms of twentieth-century totalitarian states,'' writes Sagan. Athens, cradle of the concept and practice of citizenship, was a mature democracy flawed by cruel, imperial domination of neighbors, by its legions of slaves, by its exclusion of women from cultural and political life. To explain this paradox, Sagan ( Freud, Women and Morality ), in a profound psychohistory, diagnoses Athens as a society with paranoid tendencies, one that sought control over a feared, untrustworthy universe through domination and projection. Further, he draws parallels between Athens, unable to free itself from self-destructiveness, and the self-annihilating potential of modern America. Sagan humanizes the classical world even as he reveals its horrors. This landmark study is one of the few key guides to retrieving what is viable in our Greco-Roman heritage. History Book Club alternate. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-465-03057-6
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