Democracy was originally a Greek idea that reached its pinnacle in the classical period. What does the term actually mean, and how and why did democratic systems first develop? In this illustrated talk, Peter Meineck will explore the roots of democracy and its remarkable connections to both military and theatrical cultures. He will also explore the close relationship between American democracy and the ancient Greeks as well as ask why the Founders sought innovative models for government within the texts of the ancients. One of the Founders, Thomas Jefferson, exclaimed that he fell to his knees every day to give thanks that he knew how to read Greek and Latin. And the ancient Greek examples made by Hamilton and Madison in the Federalist Papers helped persuade a factious new nation to unify as the United States. Early American perceptions about the ancient Greeks were instrumental in helping to forge an American identity and this talk will show how in times of great political and social stress American leaders have looked to the Greeks for inspiration, guidance, and common ground.