- Series: Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture (Book 15)
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; 1st edition (November 15, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0806124644
- ISBN-13: 978-0806124643
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,358,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Greece, Rome, and the Bill of Rights (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture) 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
The principle that a purpose of government is to protect the individual rights and minority opinions of its citizens is a recent idea in human history. A doctrine of human rights could never have evolved, however, if the ancient Athenians had not invented the revolutionary idea that human beings are capable of governing themselves and if the ancient Romans had not created their elaborate system of law. Susan Ford Wiltshire traces the evolution of the doctrine of individual rights from antiquity through the eighteenth century. The common thread through that long story is the theory of natural law. Growing out of Greek political thought, especially that of Aristotle, natural law became a major tenet of Stoic philosophy during the Hellenistic age and later became attached to Roman legal doctrine. It underwent several transformations during the Middle Ages on the Continent and in England, especially in the thought of John Locke, before it came to justify a theory of natural rights, claimed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence as the basis of the "unalienable rights" of Americans. Amendment by amendment, Wiltshire assesses in detail the ancient parallels for the twenty-odd provisions of the Bill of Rights. She does not claim that it is directly influenced by Greek and Roman political practice. Rather, she examines classical efforts toward assuring such guarantees as freedom of speech, religious toleration, and trial by jury. Present in the ancient world, too, were early experiments in limiting search and seizure, the billeting of soldiers, and the right to bear arms. Wiltshire concludes that while the idea of individual rights evolved later than classical antiquity, the civicinfrastructure supporting such rights in the United States is preeminently a legacy from ancient Greece and Rome. In the era celebrating the Bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, Greece, Rome, and the Bill of Rights reminds us once again that the idea of ensuring human rights has a long history, one as tenuous but as enduring as the story of human freedom itself.
About the Author
Susan Ford Wiltshire is Professor of Classics and Chair of Department of Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Public and Private in Vergil's Aeneid and the editor of The Usefulness of Classical Learning in the Eighteenth Century.