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An Invention More Important than Democracy: Aeschylus’ Eumenides

An Invention More Important than Democracy: Aeschylus’ EumenidesLocation: Ithacan Philanthropic Society, L.2, 329 Elizabeth Street.
Date: 21 August 2014, 7:00pm
Presenter: Dimitris Vardoulakis
Entry: Free


It is often said that the Athenians invented democracy. However, it is well known that voting was widely practiced in various communities throughout antiquity.

I will contend that the Athenians invented something much more important than voting, namely, the distinction between a politics of kinship and a politics of judgment.

The clearest example of this Athenian preoccupation is the trial of Orestes in the Eumenides.

Has Orestes killed his mother and thus is to be tried under the laws of patricide? Or has he disposed of a tyrant thereby liberating his polis?

The Athenians were called to solve this conundrum and their response set the stage for how we think the political even today.


Dimitris Vardoulakis is the chair of the Philosophy Research Initiative at the University of Western Sydney. His books include The Doppelgänger (2010), Sovereignty and its Other (2013), Freedom from the Free Will: Kafka as Political Philosopher (forthcoming), and Stasis: On Agonistic Democracy (forthcoming).