The Greek polis (article) | Classical Greece | Khan Academy
them to conceptualize relations between the other two. Plato's interlock . See Meier, The Athenian Discovery of Politics (despite the author's more consistently avowed . Moreover, the acts of tragedy's aristocratic heroes differ in fundamental. Learning from Athens from Boston Review. are sparse, and the fundamental differences between them and political institutions are too great. Finally, by tracking the relationship between government form and overall state. thinks that an understanding of the political and cultural differences among . Thucydides' explanation of the cause behind Athens' buildup and Sparta's fear.
While there seems to have also been a type of citizen assembly presumably of the hoplite classthe archons and the body of the Areopagus ran the state and the mass of people had no say in government at all before these reforms.
Since the Areopagus was made up of ex-archons, this would eventually mean the weakening of the hold of the nobles there as well. However, even with Solon's creation of the citizen's assembly, the Archons and Areopagus still wielded a great deal of power. In the play The Eumenidesperformed inAeschylushimself a noble, portrays the Areopagus as a court established by Athena herself, an apparent attempt to preserve the dignity of the Areopagus in the face of its disempowerment.
They were mostly chosen by lotwith a much smaller and more prestigious group of about elected. Neither was compulsory; individuals had to nominate themselves for both selection methods.
In particular, those chosen by lot were citizens acting without particular expertise.
This was almost inevitable since, with the notable exception of the generals strategoieach office had restrictive term limits. For example, a citizen could only be a member of the Boule in two non-consecutive years in their life.
Age restrictions were in place with thirty years as a minimum, rendering about a third of the adult citizen body ineligible at any one time. An unknown proportion of citizens were also subject to disenfranchisement atimiaexcluding some of them permanently and others temporarily depending on the type. Furthermore, all citizens selected were reviewed before taking up office dokimasia at which time they might be disqualified. While citizens voting in the assembly were free of review or punishment, those same citizens when holding an office served the people and could be punished very severely.
In addition to being subject to review prior to holding office, officeholders were also subject to an examination after leaving office euthunai, 'straightenings' or 'submission of accounts' to review their performance. Both of these processes were in most cases brief and formulaic, but they opened up the possibility of a contest before a jury court if some citizen wanted to take a matter up. Even during his period of office, any officeholder could be impeached and removed from office by the assembly.
In each of the ten "main meetings" kuriai ekklesiai a year, the question was explicitly raised in the assembly agenda: Citizens active as officeholders served in a quite different capacity from when they voted in the assembly or served as jurors.
By and large, the power exercised by these officials was routine administration and quite limited. These officeholders were the agents of the people, not their representatives, so their role was that of administration, rather than governing. The powers of officials were precisely defined and their capacity for initiative limited. When it came to penal sanctions, no officeholder could impose a fine over fifty drachmas. Anything higher had to go before a court. Competence does not seem to have been the main issue, but rather, at least in the 4th century BC, whether they were loyal democrats or had oligarchic tendencies.
Part of the ethos of democracy, rather, was the building of general competence by ongoing involvement. In the 5th century setup, the ten annually elected generals were often very prominent, but for those who had power, it lay primarily in their frequent speeches and in the respect accorded them in the assembly, rather than their vested powers.
Selection by lot[ edit ] The allotment of an individual was based on citizenship, rather than merit or any form of personal popularity which could be bought.
Allotment therefore was seen as a means to prevent the corrupt purchase of votes and it gave citizens political equality, as all had an equal chance of obtaining government office. This also acted as a check against demagoguerythough this check was imperfect and did not prevent elections from involving pandering to voters. Athenians selected for office served as teams boards, panels.
In a group, one person is more likely to know the right way to do things and those that do not may learn from those that do. During the period of holding a particular office, everyone on the team would be observing everybody else as a sort of check. However, there were officials, such as the nine archons, who while seemingly a board carried out very different functions from each other. No office appointed by lot could be held twice by the same individual.
The only exception was the boule or council of In this case, simply by demographic necessity, an individual could serve twice in a lifetime. This principle extended down to the secretaries and undersecretaries who served as assistants to magistrates such as the archons. To the Athenians, it seems what had to be guarded against was not incompetence but any tendency to use office as a way of accumulating ongoing power. There were two main categories in this group: One reason that financial officials were elected was that any money embezzled could be recovered from their estates; election in general strongly favoured the rich, but in this case wealth was virtually a prerequisite.
Generals were elected not only because their role required expert knowledge, but also because they needed to be people with experience and contacts in the wider Greek world where wars were fought.
History of Athens
In the 5th century BC, principally as seen through the figure of Periclesthe generals could be among the most powerful people in the polis. Yet in the case of Pericles, it is wrong to see his power as coming from his long series of annual generalships each year along with nine others.What is the difference between International Politics and International Relations
His officeholding was rather an expression and a result of the influence he wielded. That influence was based on his relation with the assembly, a relation that in the first instance lay simply in the right of any citizen to stand and speak before the people. Under the 4th century version of democracy, the roles of general and of key political speaker in the assembly tended to be filled by different persons. In part, this was a consequence of the increasingly specialized forms of warfare practiced in the later period.
Elected officials, too, were subject to review before holding office and scrutiny after office. And they could also be removed from office at any time that the assembly met. There was even a death penalty for "inadequate performance" while in office. Slavery in ancient Greece Athenian democracy has had many critics, both ancient and modern.
Ancient Greek critics of Athenian democracy include Thucydides the general and historian, Aristophanes the playwright, Plato the pupil of Socrates, Aristotle the pupil of Plato, and a writer known as the Old Oligarch. While modern critics are more likely to find fault with the restrictive qualifications for political involvement, these ancients viewed democracy as being too inclusive. For them, the common people were not necessarily the right people to rule and were likely to make huge mistakes.
The modern desire to look to Athens for lessons or encouragement for modern thought, government, or society must confront this strange paradox: And what is more, the actual history of Athens in the period of its democratic government is marked by numerous failures, mistakes, and misdeeds—most infamously, the execution of Socrates—that would seem to discredit the ubiquitous modern idea that democracy leads to good government.
For example, he points to errors regarding Sparta ; Athenians erroneously believed that Sparta's kings each had two votes in their ruling council and that there existed a Spartan battalion called Pitanate lochos. To Thucydides, this carelessness was due to common peoples' "preference for ready-made accounts".
Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which everyone has equal rights, they regarded it as manifestly unjust. In Aristotle's works, this is categorized as the difference between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' i. Two examples demonstrate this: In BC, after years of defeats in the wake of the annihilation of their vast invasion force in Sicily, the Athenians at last won a naval victory at Arginusae over the Spartans.
After the battle, a storm arose and the generals in command failed to collect survivors. The Athenians tried and sentenced six of the eight generals to death.
Technically, it was illegal, as the generals were tried and sentenced together, rather than one by one as Athenian law required. Socrates happened to be the citizen presiding over the assembly that day and refused to cooperate though to little effect and stood against the idea that it was outrageous for the people to be unable to do whatever they wanted.
In addition to this unlawful injustice, the demos later on regretted the decision and decided that they had been misled. Those charged with misleading the demos were put on trial, including the author of the motion to try the generals together.
His death gave Europe one of the first intellectual martyrs still recorded, but guaranteed the democracy an eternity of bad press at the hands of his disciple and enemy to democracy, Plato. From Socrates's arguments at his trial, Loren Samons writes, "It follows, of course, that any majority—including the majority of jurors—is unlikely to choose rightly.
Surely, some might continue, we may simply write off events such as Socrates' execution as examples of the Athenians' failure to realize fully the meaning and potential of their own democracy. Much of his writings were about his alternatives to democracy.
His The RepublicThe Statesmanand Laws contained many arguments against democratic rule and in favour of a much narrower form of government: For instance, the system of nomothesia was introduced. A new law might be proposed by any citizen.
Any proposal to modify an existing law had to be accompanied by a proposed replacement law. The citizen making the proposal had to publish it [in] advance: The proposal would be considered by the Council, and would be placed on the agenda of the Assembly in the form of a motion.
If the Assembly voted in favor of the proposed change, the proposal would be referred for further consideration by a group of citizens called nomothetai literally "establishers of the law". That is to say, the mass meeting of all citizens lost some ground to gatherings of a thousand or so which were under oath, and with more time to focus on just one matter though never more than a day. One downside to this change was that the new democracy was less capable of responding quickly in times where quick, decisive action was needed.
Another tack of criticism is to notice the disquieting links between democracy and a number of less than appealing features of Athenian life. Although democracy predated Athenian imperialism by over thirty years, they are sometimes associated with each other. For much of the 5th century at least, democracy fed off an empire of subject states. Thucydides the son of Milesias not the historianan aristocrat, stood in opposition to these policies, for which he was ostracised in BC.
At times the imperialist democracy acted with extreme brutality, as in the decision to execute the entire male population of Melos and sell off its women and children simply for refusing to become subjects of Athens. The common people were numerically dominant in the navy, which they used to pursue their own interests in the form of work as rowers and in the hundreds of overseas administrative positions. Furthermore, they used the income from empire to fund payment for officeholding.
This is the position set out by the anti-democratic pamphlet known whose anonymous author is often called the Old Oligarch. This writer also called pseudo-Xenophon produced several comments critical of democracy, such as: Collectivizing political responsibility lends itself to both dishonest practices and scapegoating individuals when measures become unpopular.
By being inclusive, opponents to the system become naturally included within the democratic framework, meaning democracy itself will generate few opponents, despite its flaws. A democratic Athens with an imperial policy will spread the desire for democracy outside of the polis.
History of Athens - Wikipedia
The democratic government depends on the control of resources, which requires military power and material exploitation. The values of freedom of equality include non-citizens more than it should. By blurring the distinction between the natural and political world, democracy leads the powerful to act immorally and outside their own best interest. Aristotle also wrote about what he considered to be a better form of government than democracy.
Rather than any citizen partaking with equal share in the rule, he thought that those who were more virtuous should have greater power in governance. By so strongly validating one role, that of the male citizen, it has been argued that democracy compromised the status of those who did not share it. Originally, a male would be a citizen if his father was a citizen, Under Periclesin BC, restrictions were tightened so that a citizen had to be born to an Athenian father and an Athenian mother.
So Metroxenoi, those with foreign mothers, were now to be excluded. These mixed marriages were also heavily penalized by the time of Demosthenes. Many Athenians prominent earlier in the century would have lost citizenship had this law applied to them: Cleisthenesthe founder of democracy, had a non-Athenian mother, and the mothers of Cimon and Themistocles were not Greek at all, but Thracian. In Sparta, women competed in public exercise — so in Aristophanes 's Lysistrata the Athenian women admire the tanned, muscular bodies of their Spartan counterparts — and women could own property in their own right, as they could not at Athens.
Misogyny was by no means an Athenian invention, but it has been claimed that Athens had worse misogyny than other states at the time. Indeed, the extensive use of imported non-Greeks " barbarians " as chattel slaves seems to have been an Athenian development. This triggers the paradoxical question: Was democracy "based on" slavery?
It does seem clear that possession of slaves allowed even poorer Athenians — owning a few slaves was by no means equated with wealth — to devote more of their time to political life. The breadth of slave ownership also meant that the leisure of the rich the small minority who were actually free of the need to work rested less than it would have on the exploitation of their less well-off fellow citizens.
Working for wages was clearly regarded as subjection to the will of another, but at least debt servitude had been abolished at Athens under the reforms of Solon at the start of the 6th century BC.
Allowing a new kind of equality among citizens opened the way to democracy, which in turn called for a new means, chattel slavery, to at least partially equalise the availability of leisure between rich and poor. In the absence of reliable statistics, all these connections remain speculative. However, as Cornelius Castoriadis pointed out, other societies also kept slaves but did not develop democracy. Even with respect to slavery, it is speculated that Athenian fathers had originally been able to register offspring conceived with slave women for citizenship.
They want representative democracy to be added to or even replaced by direct democracy in the Athenian way, perhaps by utilizing electronic democracy. Another group, on the other hand, considers that, since many Athenians were not allowed to participate in its government, Athenian democracy was not a democracy at all. Yet, after the demise of Athenian democracy, few looked upon it as a good form of government.
This was because no legitimation of that rule was formulated to counter the negative accounts of Plato and Aristotle. They saw it as the rule of the poor that plundered the rich, and so democracy was viewed as a sort of "collective tyranny". Furthermore, it would be misleading to say that the tradition of Athenian democracy was an important part of the 18th-century revolutionaries' intellectual background.
The classical example that inspired the American and French revolutionaries as well as the English radicals was Rome rather than Greece.
Thus, the Founding Fathers who met in Philadelphia indid not set up a Council of the Areopagos, but a Senatethat, eventually, met on the Capitol. In opposition, thinkers such as Samuel Johnson were worried about the ignorance of a democratic decision-making body. However, " Macaulay and John Stuart Mill and George Grote saw the great strength of the Athenian democracy in the high level of cultivation that citizens enjoyed and called for improvements in the educational system of Britain that would make possible a shared civic consciousness parallel to that achieved by the ancient Athenians.
Later, to the end of World War Il, democracy became dissociated from its ancient frame of reference. It was not anymore only one of the many possible ways in which political rule could be organised in a polity: Spartans expended vast resources to develop a powerful and structured military apparatus to prevent and subdue rebellions. Though there was a very sharp distinction between Spartans and helots, Spartan society itself did not have a complex social hierarchy, at least in theory.
Instead of wealth being a distinguishing marker, social status was determined by military achievements. Strength and discipline were emphasized, even in children at a very young age. At age seven, Spartan boys were separated from their families and sent to live in military barracks, where they underwent serious military training, leading up to active service when they were barely out of their teens.
Though Spartan society did not have a rigid social hierarchy, it still had some influential groups. Like all Greek societies, Sparta was dominated by male citizens, and the most powerful of these came from a select group of families.
The Spartan political system was unusual in that it had two hereditary kings from two separate families. These monarchs were particularly powerful when one of them led the army on campaign. The kings were also priests of Zeus, and they sat on the council of elders known as the gerousia, which was also the highest court in Sparta.
There was also an executive committee of five ephors chosen by lot from the citizen body, able only to serve for a maximum of one year after which point they were ineligible for future office. Two of the ephors also accompanied one of the kings when on campaign. Just how these different political elements interacted is not known for certain, but clearly a degree of consensus was necessary for the state apparatus to function.
Women in Sparta had more rights than women in other Greek city-states. In Sparta, they could own property, which they often gained through dowries and inheritances. Some women became rich when the men in their families were killed in war.
In fact, women eventually controlled nearly half of Spartan land. In addition, Spartan women could move around with reasonable freedom, wear non-constricting clothing, enjoy athletics, and even drink wine. How were Spartan helots different from enslaved people? How was social status primarily determined in Sparta? Athens Athens emerged as the dominant economic power in Greece around the late sixth century BCE, its power and wealth was further bolstered by the discovery of silver in the neighboring mountains.
Athens was at the center of an efficient trading system with other Greek city states. Trade was incredibly important for Athens, as it did not have the agricultural conditions to cultivate enough grain for its population.
Athens transitioned through different systems of government as its population grew and became wealthier through maritime trade. This wealth became increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few members of the aristocracy, who were also political leaders, leaving other members of society in debt, sometimes to the point of being forced into debt slavery.
Further, there was a perceived lack of consistency among the laws of the city. The first series of laws written to address these inequities was provided by the statesman Draco around BCE, but the laws were considered too severe—the penalty for most infractions was death! This is where we get the term draconian!
An aristocrat named Solon was called upon to modify and revise these harsh laws; he created a series of laws which equalized political power. Two of the changes for which Solon was responsible were the cancellation of debts and the abolition of debt slavery. He also created opportunities for some common people to participate in the government of Athens. In doing so, Solon laid the groundwork for democracy in Athens.
- 5a. Rise of City-States: Athens and Sparta
- The Greek polis
- Learning from Athens
Pericles led Athens between and BCE; he was an incredibly well-liked leader known for encouraging culture, philosophy, and science and for advocating for the common people. Under Pericles, Athens entered its golden age and great thinkers, writers, and artists flourished in the city.
Democritus envisioned an atomic universe. Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Sophocles wrote their famous plays. This legacy continued as, later, Plato founded his Academy outside the walls of Athens in BCE and, even later, Aristotle's Lyceum was founded in the city center. Still, Athenian democracy was limited to its male citizens. Foreigners, enslaved people, and women were excluded from these institutions.
While women of the upper classes were often literate, most were not likely to receive an education beyond what was needed for the execution of their domestic duties. They required male chaperones to travel in public. Enslaved people, while not involved in political affairs, were integral to the Athenian economy. They cultivated food, worked large construction projects, and labored in mines and quarries.
Enslaved people were present in most Athenian households, carrying out an array of domestic duties. Where does the term draconian come from? Colonization and the Persian Wars Due to the increasing populations of the city states and the insufficient resources available, many Greeks began to look outward and create settlements outside of mainland Greece. Between the eighth and sixth centuries, hundreds of colonies were established on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas.
Later, Greek communities would settle in modern-day Sicily and southern Italy, even as far as modern-day southern France. Eventually, more Greeks lived in these settlements than on mainland Greece.
A map of Greek and Phoenician colonization on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas. Greek and Phoenician colonization from - BCE. Ancient History Encyclopedia Greek colonization invigorated the networks of trade and exchange throughout the Mediterranean.