Thus the invention of “political philosophy” as a genre can be understood as a deliberate challenge to existing practices, and conceptions, of “the political.” The challenge was directed in particular, though not exclusively, to democratic practices in mid to late fifth century Athens, which was the both intellectually dominant and in many ways politically exemplary at the time, as well as bequeathing the lion's share of our surviving evidence from ancient Greece (Meier, 1990; on the evidence for ancient philosophy in general, see the entry on doxography for ancient philosophy).
This was a polytheistic, rather than monotheistic, setting, in which religion was at least in large part a function of civic identity.
It was a world innocent of modern bureaucracy and of the modern move to intellectual abstraction in defining the state: the entity we would call “Athens” in the abstract was called in its own day by the collective noun for its living and breathing citizens, “the Athenians.” So if ancient political philosophy left out much that modern political philosophy would include (e.g., for the most part, the question of the justness of slavery), it also included much that the latter would tend to exclude: viewing an unquestioned civic religious cult, as well as the patterns of child-rearing, cultural stories expressed in music, epic, and drama, gender roles and sexual practices, military participation, as forming part of the “way of life” which constituted the or “constitution” in its broadest sense (Lane 2014, 59–62).
Justice was conceived by poets, lawgivers, and philosophers alike as the structure of civic bonds which were beneficial to all (rich and poor, powerful and weak alike) rather than an exploitation of some by others.
Hesiod's late eighth-century epic poem , for example, contrasts the brute strength with which a hawk can dominate a nightingale (“You are being held by one who is much stronger…
The distinctive understanding of “politics” forged in Greece was marked by the historical emergence of the independent city-state was widely understood as the acme of human civilization and the principal domain in which human fulfillment could be sought.
The city was the domain of potential collaboration in leading the good life, though it was by the same token the domain of potential contestation should that pursuit come to be understood as pitting some against others.
Platonic models remained especially important for later authors throughout this period, even as the development of later “Hellenistic” schools of Greek philosophy, and distinctively Roman forms of philosophical adaptation, offered new frameworks for construing politics from a philosophical point of view.
as the Greek city-states came under the suzerainty of larger kingdoms after an initial Macedonian conquest at the end of the fourth century B.
I will make a meal of you, if I want, or let you go,” lines 206–208), with the peace and plenty which flourishes wherever justice, such as rendering fair verdicts to foreigners, is preserved (lines 225–230).