“The History of Freedom in Antiquity”

In this piece Acton talks about ideas, not legislation.  Acton identifies the meaning of liberty and then proceeds to argue that with the ancients “rights secured by equal laws and by sharing power existed nowhere”.  Keeping in mind he is discussing the thought of the times, one can easily find references to Plato’s Republic, Apology, Crito and Aristotle’s Politics.  He finishes with a clear affinity for the Stoics, but still concludes “in all that I have been able to cite from classical literature, three things are wanting – representative government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience” (p. 38).

READING LINK: Acton on Liberty in Antiquity

About William Kline

William Kline is an associate professor in the department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
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