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The development of Demokratia in Athens Essay

Trace the development of “democratic” in Athens. How did it work? What were its strengths and its weaknesses? The development of democratic can be traced back to the reforms legislated by the Athenian statesman Solon in 594 B. C. E. During this period, heightened economic and political tensions existed between different groups within Athenian society. Many farmers, most of which were peasants, were unable to keep up with the increased demand for food caused by rapid population growth in Athens. Several bad harvests and soil exhaustion exacerbated the problem.

Peasant farmers became heavily indebted to wealthy Pituitaries, or aristocrats, and were unable to settle their debts. As a result, many were faced with losing their land and/or being sold into slavery. Tensions also grew between the Pituitaries and the wealthy non-Pituitaries, composed of merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, prosperous farmers and hiplines. The latter demanded more say in public affairs. It is this context in which Solon’s economic and political reforms were implemented, in an attempt to avoid conflict between the contentious groups.

In spite of Solon’s aristocratic lineage, “in wealth and position he was of middle class” 1 . This background, along with his reputation as a moderate, pragmatic, and wise Athenian statesman

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made Solon the appropriate person to undertake comprehensive reforms. He did Just that, upon consent of all parties. On the economic front he eliminated debt-slavery, canceled debts, setup a new coinage system, and purchased the freedom of Athenians enslaved abroad. Politically, he changed the qualification for governmental office from birthright to wealth.

While this change allowed non-aristocratic elites to seek public office, ordinary Athenians were still not permitted to do so. Solon established the Council of 400 by organizing he adult male Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution (as translated by Sir Frederic G. Kenton), part 5 citizenry, by wealth, into four political groups, each composed of one hundred adult male citizens. Additionally, the newly established court permitted any adult male citizen to serve, regardless of class. As a result, ultimate authority for legal interpretation was, at least in theory, peer based.

While these reforms were groundbreaking, they did not completely satisfy any of the factions. The peasantry and non-Updated elite believed the changes did not go far enough; the Pituitaries, let that Solon’s reforms weakened their powers too much. As economic hardships worsened and hunger for political power grew, so too did social dissatisfaction and political instability. Consequently, wallpapers Elections lea to ten resumption AT tyrannical learners in 561 B. C. E. , when Postmistress seized power.

He, followed by his sons ruled until 510 B. C. E. , when one son was assassinated and the other exiled. Shortly thereafter, members of the aristocracy, led by Calisthenics, revolted to form an oligarchy. While he desired to lead the established oligarchy, other nobles disagreed. Significantly, he urine to the demos, the people, and received their strong support. This ancient Greek “populist”, assumed leadership and was empowered by the assembly to further reform Athenian institutions and bring about more civic equality.

Calisthenics abolished the four traditional tribes, based on wealth, and instead organized the population into ten artificial tribes comprised of men of varying wealth from widely scattered territories. Each tribal unit formed the basis for the reorganized army’s divisions. Likewise, each tribe chose fifty of its own councilmen to participate in the newly created Council of 500. Calisthenics’ reforms reduced aristocratic political power, guaranteed political control shifted to the deems, and ensured “the constitution became much more democratic than that of Solon” 2. 2 Ibid, part 22 The Persian Wars, between 490-479 B.

C. E. , were pivotal in the advancement of democratic. The battle of Marathon, pitted a numerically superior, but “more lightly armored”, Persian army against a smaller, better armored, united Athenian army, and some troops from a neighboring polis. The strength of the Greek phalanx, where all Athenian male citizens, regardless of wealth or social status, fought side-by-side to fend the Greek homeland and dealt the Persians a crushing defeat. Perhaps the Greek historian Herodotus best summed up the reason behind Greek victory at Marathon, “free men fight better than slaves. Emboldened by Marathon, the Athenian populace agreed to build a new navy, which like the army included members chosen from the entire male citizenry. Almost two decades after the Persian Wars, in 462 B. C. E. , ordinary citizens who had served in the Ana gained influence. “As the strength of the masses increased” 3, Philters headed a movement to limit the privileged Reappears, or council of elders. The council, comprised exclusively of aristocratic members, held office for life and had the “power to nullify laws and remove candidates from office”4.

Its supervisory powers served to safeguard interests of the aristocracy. As “the last bastion of institutionalized aristocratic predominance” 5, the Reappears was eventually stripped of its oversight authority and “reduced to a murder court and investigative body, albeit a highly respected one”6. According to Duchesses, Particles believed that “Having knowledge but lacking the power to express it clearly is no better than never having any ideas at all”. He sought o Instill upon ten populace, a active and regular 3 Ibid, part 25 netter nears tangle AT poll t I LLC Ana ten Imp rattan AT Christopher W.

Blackwell, The Development of Athenian Democracy, edition of January 24, 2003, page 5 5 Davies, Democracy and Classical Greece (2nd edition), pages 54-59 6 Ibid 4 participation in the political process. As the Greek empire grew, so too did the bureaucracy. More and more administrators were required to handle the empire’s affairs. In order to meet the demand, and enable all citizens the opportunity to participate in government, Particles introduced the practice of public payment for public service, including Jurymen and council members. He also changed the requirements for citizenship.

Previously, citizenship was inherited through the male line – a son of an Athenian citizen became a citizen as well. The new law decreed “on the motion of Particles, that no one should [be] admitted to the franchise who was not of citizen birth by both parents” 7. While women continued to be excluded from politics, the citizenship law provided at least a modicum of increased female power. From that moment on, only Athenian women could give birth to legitimate Athenian citizens. Democratic, or rule by the people, was a system of direct democracy whereby any Athenian citizen could have a say in the government.

The system was comprised of three main institutions: the Ecclesia, or assembly, the Boulez, or Council of 500, and the Helical, or court. The Ecclesia was the supreme governing body and was open to any adult male citizen who had completed the requisite two-year military service. Responsibilities of the assembly included voting on laws and treaties, declaring war, granting citizenship to foreigners, Judging political cases, and electing some public officials, including the Ten Generals who commanded the military.

Assembly meetings occurred in Athens approximately forty times per year and voting was by a simple majority of those citizens present. Democratic extended to a local level through deems. The Bole’s main function was administrative. It convened and set the order of the day for the assembly, and administered most public business. The Council of 500 also The Helical was composed of six-thousand citizens aged thirty or over, and chosen by lot every year. The 7 Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution (as translated by Sir Frederic G. Kenton), part 26 Halide was divided into smaller court panels, or disasters.

Each day the court was in session, court panels were assigned by lot to specific public, criminal 8, or private international cases. There were no Judges or lawyers in court. Litigants represented themselves, each being allotted a brief time to advocate their position orally. Without deliberations, decisions were made by a simple majority the same day. The public courts wielded extensive powers, deciding the guilt or innocence of their fellow citizens, and for those found guilty, vote on punishments that range from small fines o death. Perhaps most significant was the power to Judge the legitimacy of laws.

According to Aristotle, the public courts contributed the most to democracy. ” The primary strength of democratic was its principle of equality before the law. The people’s powers was, for all intents and purposes, limitless in this form of direct democracy. Regardless of wealth or social status, each citizen had the opportunity, and were strongly encouraged, to have direct involvement in public affairs. In addition to the popular assembly, there was a local assembly in each deem. Daily assignments of Juries, selected from a vast pool, to specific cases limited Jury tampering.

The strength of direct citizen involvement was also a weakness in the system. The flip side to direct citizen involvement was instability. The government became top-heavy; too many individuals involved in its affairs made the system unwieldy and inefficient. The process of legislation and making decisions of importance were slow, which in times of trouble could prove problematic. In order to vote in the popular assembly attendance was required, which precluded many ordinary citizens who did not live in Athens, or close proximity.

One of the chief criticisms of democratic was the exclusiveness of its makeup. Athenian society was a patriarchy with a disenfranchised majority. Women, resident foreigners, and slaves were prohibited from participation in public affairs and not given 8 Except for murder cases, which was handled by the Reappears 5 citizenship. Since there was no constitution or formal framework to keep the people in check, nor any lifetime professional Judges, irrational and arbitrary Justice was prevalent. Debate on matters was limited and, at least in theory, any citizen had the right to speak.

Gifted orators influenced the masses, which lead to emotions undermining the facts of a case, especially complex ones. As a result, decisions were often irrational or arbitrary, exemplified in the “fate of the Argentine generals who were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in 406 [B. C. E. ] by the Athenian Assembly’ 9, as well as the trial and subsequent death of Socrates, in 399 B. C. E. Accountability was more difficult in democratic compared to monarchic, oligarchic, or tyrannical rule. Fauna Hoboken and Christopher Tippling, Xenophobe: Ethical Principles and Historical Inquiry, page 162 6

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