The Getty Villa
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater
Past Event

Demagogues have been a problem for democracy since at least the 5th century BC, when the populist tanner Kleon—a charismatic speaker and trenchant critic of the prominent Greek statesman Pericles—gained control of the Athenian assembly. He attacked the aristocracy and played upon the emotions and prejudices of his fellow citizens. Of him Aristotle wrote: "He was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language and who spoke with his cloak girt around him, while all the others used to speak in proper dress and manner."

Do demagogues inevitably unravel democracies, as thinkers from the aristocratic Greek historian Polybius to James Madison have argued, or can they help renew the system by galvanizing the public against corruption and outdated laws and practices? What lessons can we draw from the experience of ancient Greeks and Romans? Organized and presented in partnership with Zócalo Public Square, this discussion with Eric Robinson, ancient historian and Greek democracy expert at Indiana University, Victoria Emma Pagán classics professor and Roman historiographer at the University of Florida, and Jennifer Mercieca, communications professor and rhetorician at Texas A&M University, explores how democracies produce—and survive—their demagogues. Seema Mehta, political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, moderates.

About the Panelists

Eric Robinson is professor of history and classical studies at Indiana University Bloomington. His research focuses on questions of ancient Greek politics, warfare, and religion with special interest in Greek democracy. He is author of The First Democracies (1997), which explores the emergence of the ancient form of popular government in numerous city-states in the Archaic Age of Greek history, and Democracy Beyond Athens (2011), where he describes democracy's expansion and character in the Classical Age. He earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University and his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Victoria Emma Pagán is professor of classics at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She has written extensively on Latin literature with special interest on the historians and post-Augustan writers. She is the author of Conspiracy Narratives in Roman History (2004), Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature (2012), and A Sallust Reader (2009), and is editor of the Blackwell Companion to Tacitus (2012). She earned her bachelor's degree in Latin at Kent State University in Ohio, her master's degree at the University of Michigan, and her doctorate at the University of Chicago.

Jennifer Mercieca is an historian of American political discourse at Texas A&M University in College Station, with special interest in citizenship, democracy, and the presidency. Her scholarship combines American history with rhetorical and political theory in an effort to understand democratic practices. She is the author of Founding Fictions (2010) and the co-Editor of The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (2014). She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from The University of the Pacific and her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois.

Seema Mehta is a political writer for the Los Angeles Times. She covered the 2012 and 2008 presidential campaigns, as well as gubernatorial, Senate and mayoral races. A graduate of Syracuse University, the East Coast native swore when she joined The Times in 1998 that she would only spend a few years on the Left Coast. Many years, a husband, a house and a few cats later, Seema can't imagine living somewhere she couldn't golf year-round.

Planning your visit
The main gate on Pacific Coast Highway opens to ticketed guests at 6:00 p.m. Seating is open and on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests arriving late will be seated at the discretion of Getty staff. The galleries will be open before and after the program. A selection of light "grab 'n go" dinner fare as well as beer and wine are available for purchase at the Café until 7:15 p.m. Complimentary refreshments will be served following the lecture. Program takes place outdoors; please dress accordingly.

How to Get Here
The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California, approximately 25 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for directions and parking information.