Democracy In Athens Essay

Democracy In Athens



Democracy In Athens

A Democracy is defined as a government of, by and for the people. Originally,
democracy meant rule by the common people. In this sense, and even before the
beginning of modern class society, it was very much a class affair. It meant
that power should be in the hands of the largest class: the poorest, least
educated and the propertyless. As a result, democracy was feared and rejected by
the educated, the cultured, and the wealthy. In classical Greece, democracy was
seen by the enlightened and the educated as one of the worst types of government
and society imaginable. The rule of the people was regarded as a threat to all
the cherished values of a civilized and orderly society. It would curtail
individual freedom and would lead to anarchy. The political system of ancient

Athens was a Democracy, which involved all of its citizens and not only their
representatives, by giving then daily access to civic affairs and political
power. Both decision-making and decision-enforcing were the duty of every
citizen, not just of those elected by them or by their leaders. The citizens of

Athens were directly involved not only in government matters, but also in
matters of justice, as there was no separation of powers in ancient Athens. The

Athenian Democracy is one of the more intriguing aspects of political history.

It is a source for much of our modern conception of democracy, but it is also
quite singular in many of its features. Athenian Democracy started developing at
the beginning of the 6th century BC. This development began not by a revolution
of simple people demanding political rights, but by the initiative of the ruling
class of ancient Athens in slow evolutionary ways. By the middle of the 5th
century BC, Athens had developed into a pure and absolute Democracy. In 594 BC,

Solon was appointed into power. He took immediate measures to relieve the
citizens from the burden of their debts and at the same time began an
institutional effort to give everyday people a greater participation in city
affairs. Solon gave right to vote to all male citizens and established a new
council of 400 (the Boule) to replace the Ecclesia. Members of the Boule were
chosen randomly by lot. The term Solon is now often used to describe a wise
lawmaker. In the year 560 BC, Pisitratus seized power after Solon. He was
thought to be in the league with the Aristocrats, but soon proved to be an even
greater reformer than Solon. He abolished land ownership as a requirement for
citizenship. He mandated total redistribution of the land and exiled all people
who disagreed with him. Kleisthenes became a tyrant in 508 BC. He was an

Aristocrat who was dedicated to Democracy. He divided Athens in to ten tribes
based on geographical distribution and increased the Boule to 500 citizens.

Through his reforms common citizens acquired a new sense of power with which
they could come to expect and eventually to demand that all matters of
significance be submitted to their Assembly for discussion and then decision.

This opened the way for the advanced form of Democracy. The result of tyrants
and reformers was the creation of the most democratic government in world
history. All officials were randomly chosen by lot. The revived Ecclesia had
full and final authority of the making and execution of laws. Juries were
comprised of all citizens who chose to take part in the trial. In order to keep
aristocrats from gaining control, Athenians adopted a policy of Ostracism, or
exile, for those who would attempt to restore the Aristocracy. Although not all
persons living in Athens had these political rights, no other Democracy in human
history has provided such a magnificent level of participation. This political
system, quite innovative for its times, shaped a society of a distinct
character, of great sensibility and of unusual cultural achievements. The
individual citizen, willing to throw himself into the political fray had an
impressive array of powers. He could propose a law, which, if it found enough
support, could be formulated by the Council of 500, put on the agenda of a later

Assembly meeting, discussed and voted upon at that meeting. He could act as a
defender of the Constitution (like our Supreme Court) by bringing a prosecution
for proposal of a law that was either illegal or not in the best interests of
the state. Finally, he could bring a public prosecution against any other
citizen whether a private person or a magistrate (in

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Related Topics

Athenian democracyAncient GreecePolitical philosophyAncient Greek lawClassical AthensElectionsDemocracyEcclesiaSolonCleisthenesPnyxPrytaneis

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Athenian Democracy Essay examples

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Today, much of the world’s governments have converted to democracies. In the Ancient World, there was only one truly notable example of a democratic society: The City-State of Athens. This is actually the birthplace of democracy, where instead of the rich or powerful ruling, it was the citizens of the city-state that held the power. This advanced way of government was so effective and well structured, it even laid the foundations for the development of our own democracy, right here in the United States, over 2,000 years in the future. Prior to Athens’s collapse during the Peloponnesian War, it truly had an efficient and very organized system of government. Democracy in Athens can be traced back to 594 B.C.E, when Solon was given the…show more content…

Cleisthenes then introduced his own reforms for Athens. He gave more power to the Assembly of Athens and less power to the aristocrats. He then divided all of Attica into ten tribes, which were called phylai. Each tribe in turn was given three pieces of land, which each contained many little villages called demes. The demes all together would then participate in the government by voting for people to make up the Council. The chain of command for the government of Athens was pretty straightforward. At the very top was the strategoi, the military commanders. There were ten of these, one strategos voted for each tribe. They each served for one year, however unlike the other officials, the strategoi could be reelected to their positions an unlimited number of times. “This is based on the wisdom that frequently overhauling military leadership during a war or other national emergency can prove dangerous or even disastrous” (Nardo 46). One prominent example of this was Pericles, who was extremely popular and was reelected over twenty times before his death. The duty of the strategoi was to carry out orders given by the Council and Assembly. They also regularly carried out foreign policy initiatives. Next was the ruling group, also known as the prytany. The prytany provided individuals who were available at all times in case a crisis broke out and needed attention (Ancient Civilizations 26). After them was the

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