Though he briefly recounts the origins of the democracy, Sinclair concentrates on the period from 450 to 322. His focus is on the motivations of individuals, both ordinary citizens and leaders: the central chapters consider the opportunities of citizens, their responsibilities, the extent of their participation in the political process, and the hazards of leadership and its rewards. Sinclair also enters into the debates over the sovereignty of the demos and the balance between Ekklesia, Boule, and Dikasteria. His concluding chapter looks at evaluations of the Athenian democracy by critics, both ancient and modern.
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