In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Greek and Roman Political Philosophy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Sources
  • The Intellectual Background
  • The Athenian Context
  • Roman Political Philosophy
  • Lucretius
  • St. Augustine

Classics Greek and Roman Political Philosophy
Jed W. Atkins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0149


In this bibliography “Greek and Roman political philosophy” is taken to mean philosophical reflection on politics in the Greco-Roman world from the 5th century BCE to the 5th century CE. More particularly, ancient political philosophy involves reflection on the establishment of political institutions and laws; the nature of political rule; central social and political concepts such as liberty, justice, and equality; the rights and duties of citizenship and its relationship to a flourishing human life; civic education; and the different possible forms of constitutions or regimes. Scholars frequently distinguish political philosophy from political thought. Political thought encompasses any thinking about politics at all and may be expressed through a wide range of media and literary forms, from epistles to comedy to inscriptions. Political philosophy represents thinking about politics that is more specifically theoretical and systematic in nature. Thus, political philosophy may be seen as a subset of political thought. Because this bibliography is concerned with the narrower of the two categories, it focuses primarily on philosophers and theoretical discourse. This focus also informs the general organization of this entry, which adopts a chronological, author-by-author approach rather than the thematic approach sometimes utilized by historians of political thought. This bibliography covers Early Greek, Athenian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Early Christian political philosophy, extending from the Presocratics to St. Augustine.

General Overviews

The most comprehensive survey of Greek and Roman political philosophy is Rowe and Schofield 2000. Balot 2009 takes a thematic approach. Lane 2011 is a brief but useful summary of the field and is freely accessible online. Coleman 2000 provides an overview of the main texts encountered by students in university courses concerned with the history of Greek and Roman political philosophy. Balot 2006 offers students an introduction to Greek political thought. Keyt and Miller 2007 is a collection of thematic essays dealing with Greek political philosophy.

  • Balot, Ryan K. 2006. Greek political thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470774618

    Introduces students to the major (and many minor) characters and central themes of ancient Greek political thought. Interprets Greek political thought from a type of virtue ethics perspective. A concluding bibliographic essay provides useful references for those new to the field.

  • Balot, Ryan K., ed. 2009. A companion to Greek and Roman political thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444310344

    Designed to introduce students and teachers working in the disciplines of classics, philosophy, history, and political science to the most-important concepts in Greek and Roman political thought. It is the most comprehensive introduction to take a thematic rather than chronological approach to the topic. Has an extensive bibliography.

  • Coleman, Janet. 2000. A history of political thought. Vol. 1, From ancient Greece to early Christianity. Oxford: Blackwell.

    A textbook for university-level courses on the history of Western political thought. Gives social and philosophical background to accompany readings of primary texts and explains core concepts. The organization is focused primarily on key figures (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and St. Augustine) but also has sections on historical context (ancient Athenian democracy, Roman Republic, and Christianity).

  • Keyt, David, and Fred D. Miller Jr., eds. 2007. Freedom, reason, and the polis: Essays in ancient Greek political philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    These twelve essays explore central questions in ancient political philosophy. Ten of the twelve papers focus on the works of Plato and Aristotle.

  • Lane, Melissa. 2011. Ancient political philosophy. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

    Brief overview of the field and select bibliography. A good and easily accessible online source.

  • Rowe, Christopher, and Malcolm Schofield, eds. 2000. The Cambridge history of Greek and Roman political thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521481366

    The most important reference work in the area of Greek and Roman political philosophy and political thought. Most essays are accessible to advanced undergraduates but will also be of interest to scholars.

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