Athenian Democracy Essay Research Paper A Democracy

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Athenian Democracy Essay, Research Paper 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,