Demagogues first appeared in Athens in 428B.C. they were criticised by the intellectuals at the time for their tactics of appealing to the lowest common denominator. However it is noteable that almost without exception the intellectuals were the wealthier members of society and the policies of the demagogues were designed to benefit the poorer members of society, so a certain amount of bias is to be expected. In addition Cleon by far the most significant of the demagogues made personal enemies of both Thucydides and Aristophanes and they are the two biggest sources for his time in power.

The most frequently given example of a demagogue is Cleon the other demagogues in Athens were Cleophon and Hyperbolus. Pericles is occasionally criticised by modern scholars as being little more than a demagogue himself, however most would agree that once he had established his power base he acted in the best interests of the city rather than passing laws to please the citizens.

Dem"a*gogue (?; 115), n. [Gr. a popular leader; commonly in a bad sense, a leader of the mob; the people + leading, fr. to lead; akin to E. act: cf. F. d'emagogue.]

A leader of the rabble; one who attempts to control the multitude by specious or deceitful arts; an unprincipled and factious mob orator or political leader.


© Webster 1913.

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