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Old Dominion Series: Lycurgus, Solon, Charondas…Figuring the Legislator in Platonic Political Thought and its Aftermath

Melissa Lane, Politics

Wed, 3/3 · 4:30 pm · via Zoom

Humanities Council
Lycurgus (9th-9th BCE). Legislator from Sparta. From "Vita Virorum Illustrium" by Plutarch. Italy, mid 15th CE. Membranaceo, Vol. II, 36.4 x 25.0 cm. Photo Credit : Alfredo Dagli Orti / Art Resource, NY

In the second of the 2020-2021 Old Dominion Series, Melissa Lane (Politics) gives a talk on “Lycurgus, Solon, Charondas…Figuring the Legislator in Platonic Political Thought and its Aftermath.”

Were early Greek legislators seen as having invented the laws of their peoples ex nihilo? Against later discourses of founder-legislators in Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Nietzsche, this lecture argues that classical Greeks themselves thought of their legislators as characteristically acting in media res, working to amend preexisting laws and customs.   In their very elevation of the great legendary legislators, Greek thinkers such as Plato presupposed that it would misunderstand the project of legislation to imagine that it could be done from scratch.  In this illustrated lecture, I survey Greek ideas of the legislator and contrast them with later historical and theoretical appeals to this figure in the history of political thought.

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Upcoming Old Dominion talks:

March 25, 12:00 pm
Yaacob Dweck, History; Judaic Studies
“Rabbinic Reactionaries in the Sephardic Diaspora: Notes on a Social Type”

April 19, 4:30 pm
Susan J. Wolfson, English
“Pride and Prejudice: not altogether ‘light & bright & sparkling’”

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