T HE TITlE of this paper may seem innocent and straightforward.It presents a historical problem, but does not seem to raise asemantic question. We believe we know what a politician is and we are used to reading about Athenian politicians. Two outstanding examples will suffice. Twenty years ago S. Perlman published an excellent article entitled "The Politicians in the Athenian Democracy of the Fourth Century B.C." (Athenaeum 41 [1963] 327-55), and in 1971 W. R. Connor published his seminal study The New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens. It is characteristic of these and similar studies! that they are based on two tacit assumptions: (a) that the term politician!Politikerlpoliticien covers a sufficiently clear and well-defined concept; and (b) that this concept can be applied in descriptions of ancient societies. I will open my account of the problem by questioning both these assumptions.