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Changing NamesTradition and Innovation in Ancient Greek Onomastics$
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Robert Parker

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266540

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266540.001.0001

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Δημοκράτης‎ the Democrat?

Δημοκράτης‎ the Democrat?

(p.153) 7 Δημοκράτης‎ the Democrat?
Changing Names

Stephen Lambert

British Academy

This paper discusses the name Δημοκράτης‎ as an interesting case of a name whose connotation was fluid according to context and to changes over time in language and political culture. The earliest occurrence of the name at Athens, for the father of Lysis of the eponymous Platonic dialogue, is conventionally taken as very early evidence for the emergence of the language of ‘democracy’. Pointing out that, in ancient Greek, there is no word δημοκρατής‎, cognate with ‘democrat’ and its equivalents in English and other modern European languages, the paper argues that that the primary connotation of Δημοκράτης‎, a name which existed before the word ‘δημοκρατία‎’, was someone who ‘possessed power over or among the People’. It also argues, however, that, once the abstract term δημοκρατία‎ and its cognate verb δημοκρατέομαι‎ existed, ‘Δημοκράτης‎’ could not, to be sure, mean ‘democrat’, but, according to context, could connote democracy in a much looser way.

Keywords:   Demokrates, Democracy, Lysis, Hypereides, Aischylos’ Supplices

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