The Ephebe’s Journey Workshop

Athenian Democracy and the Roman Republic

August 2-3, 2013

This weekend workshop will introduce students with an interest in civic participation and leadership to the basic features of one of the ancient world’s most lasting legacies, Athenian democracy as it was conceived and practiced in the fifth and fourth century BCE. All interns will participate in this workshop. As “ephebes”, or Greek youths on the cusp of becoming full citizens, participants will explore the historical, cultural, and economic forces that gave rise to Athenian democracy and also consider the attitudes that thinkers of the time had toward it and other competing forms of government. They will look at the most salient architectural remains of Athenian democracy, namely, the theater, the acropolis, and the marketplace. Participants will also examine the various modes of education that equipped Athenians to become citizens and leaders of their communities.

No prior knowledge of the ancient world is required and no preparation is necessary other than to read Sophocles’ Philoctetes, produced in 409 BCE. A free online copy will be provided by the Hellenic Center. This is a coming of age story of the Greek Neoptolemus, who wrestles with ethical and political questions about how best to serve his community’s cause in the Trojan War. The play has seen new attention in recent years because it treats such civic questions as “What is a young person’s role in a political community?” “How do democracies use information?” and “How do we reconcile the needs of the community with self-interest?” Students will also take a brief survey about the nature of democracy and citizenship.

Primary Reading

Sophocles Philoctetes

Schedule of Sessions


  Friday, August 2
  Time Event Location
  5:00-6:00 p.m.
Reception Common Room/Courtyard
  6:00-9:00 p.m.
First Session House A
    IntroductionsArrive at the Center for Hellenic Studies for a reception and
conversation about the nature of democracy and the roles and responsibilities of
citizens.Viewing of The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt (2009)

  Saturday, August 3
  Time Event Location
  8:00-9:00 a.m. Breakfast Downstairs dining room
  9:00-10:30 a.m. First Session House A
    Democracy in Theory and Practice
The theoretical pros and cons of the four “classical” types of government: monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny. The history of Athenian democracy and its most recognizable features.
  10:30-11:00 a.m. Coffee Break  
  11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Second Session House A
    Democratic Spaces
The settings of political discourse: the agora, the
Bouleuterion, the law courts, the Pnyx, the Theater of Dionysus, the acropolis.

Guest Lecture on “Greek Democracy and the Pnyx” by Ulrike Krotscheck of
Evergreen State University


  12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Lunch Downstairs dining room
  2:00-3:30 p.m. Third Session House A
    Democracy and Education
Athenian education and its civic components.

Guest Lecture on “Greek Democracy and the City Dionysia” by Meg Butler of
Tulane University


  3:30-4:00 p.m. Coffee Break  
  4:00-5:30 p.m. Fourth Session House A
    Democracy and Empire
Recitation of passages from the Philoctetes and the Ephebic