Alcibiades and the Distorting Mirror of Celebrity
Keywords:Alcibiades, Celebrity, Scandal, Athens, Democracy
This article takes its cue from Plutarch’s observation that Alcibiades was undone by his exaggerated reputation as surely as he had been raised to such giddy heights by it before. To understand better a figure too often reduced to caricature, in ancient times as in ours, it is vital to remember, as one surveys the many notorious episodes in his life, the intensity with which the eye of the public was forever fixed upon him, and the distorting consequences that such boundless celebrity must have for how someone’s actions are perceived, reported, and often enough misconstrued. Bearing the ubiquity of such tendentious influences in mind, the article will show how many of the notorious anecdotes allow for more charitable and less sensationalist interpretation than they have commonly been given—this not by way of lionizing a mischief-maker or contriving apologetics for a scoundrel, but in order to do a little more justice, in a Plutarchian spirit, to a complex life.
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