Josiah Ober

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Josiah Ober is an American historian and classical political theorist. He holds the “Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professorship in honor of Constantine Mitsotakis Chair” of Classics and Political Science at Stanford University. His teaching and research links ancient Greek history and philosophy with modern political theory and practice.

Ober was educated at the University of Minnesota (B.A., Major in History, 1975) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D., Department of History, 1980).

He was a Professor of Ancient History at Montana State University (1980–1990), and then at Princeton University (1990–2006).

He has received fellowships from numerous institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies (1989–90) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997). He delivered the 2002-2003 Sigmund H. Danziger, Jr. Memorial Lecture in the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

Ober was a student of the distinguished American ancient historian Chester Starr, and has been the teacher of many scholars, such as the classicist John Ma and the political theorist Ryan Balot.

His early work has been criticized by scholars such as Mogens Herman Hansen for over-emphasizing the ideological aspect of Athenian democracy against its institutional dimension,[1] and his more recent writing has been accused by P.J. Rhodes of abandoning scholarly impartiality in favour of democratic advocacy.[2]

On the whole, however, Ober's work has been well received. For example, Paul Cartledge has called Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens 'a seminal work',[3] and Jennifer Roberts has called Political Dissent in Democratic Athens 'a major contribution to a dialogue of enormous import'.[4]



  • Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier, 404-322 B.C., Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985.
  • Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology, and the Power of the People, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
  • The Athenian Revolution: Essays on Ancient Greek Democracy and Political Theory, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.
  • Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going on Together, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.


  • with Manville, B., A Company of Citizens: What the World's First Democracy Teaches Leaders about Creating Great Organizations, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2003.


  • with Eadie, J., The Craft of the Ancient Historian: Essays in Honor of Chester G. Starr, University Press of America: Lanham, 1985.
  • with Euben, P., and Wallach, J., Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstruction of American Democracy, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1994.
  • with Hedrick, C., Demokratia: A Conversation on Democracies, Ancient and Modern, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1996.


  1. ^ Described definitively (though not exclusively) by Hansen in his The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles, and Ideology, University of Oklahoma Press: New York, 1999.
  2. ^ In his Ancient Democracy and Modern Ideology, Duckworth: London, 2003.
  3. ^ In The Times Higher Education Supplement.
  4. ^ In her review of that book in The American Journal of Philology 121 (2000), 482.

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