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Ancient Democracy Athens: Citizenship And Governance "Selection And Representation In Athenian Democracy"

1448 words - 6 pages

Without a question, Athenian Democracy is known to be one of the most innovative and sophisticate city-state in history of the west. This was largely due to the democratic way of life in Athens. Athens emphasized on ideology that “People are the State” and “The State is People”. Citizens in Athens were able to participate in decision making process on issues like, war and peace, finance, legislation, public work and various other government activities, in outdoor mass meeting of thousands of other citizens (Finley 1985, 19). Then the question is: who is considered as citizens?The citizenship in Athens was very exclusive. Those men who were over the age of twenty were eligible to active citizenship. Women and children were striped from the privilege of citizenship. Another group that was ineligible to citizenship was immigrant who settled in Athens and slave population, which consisted largest body of population in Athens (Held 2006, 19). This exclusivity of citizenship in Athens is one of the most problematic issues that will be addressed later on.As I mentioned, Athenian democracy emphasized on giving voices to their citizen and as a result, it took a form of direct participation democracy rather than our modern representation democracy. Citizens were able to attend in the sovereign assembly that was open to every citizen and directly vote on issues that were proposed. This was to ensure that every citizen had a voice and spread the power among citizens. Also selection was made by lot rather than election. Those who were selected mostly performed administrative functions in assembly. In the assembly of approximately six thousand Athenian citizens, council of five hundred were selected to organize and propose public decision, committee of 50 who served for one month and one president at its head who served one day in the office. Furthermore, Athenian democracy stayed away from any kind of representation to avoid any centered power, danger of autocratic politics and promote freedom and equality. The Athenians were following the principle of rotation, not of representation, thereby further strengthening the direct democracy of the assembly (Finley 1983, 74). Although this may seem to fulfill the promise of Athenian democracy, critical issues arose from this selection and representation. And through this essay, I will argue that this selection and representation was not able to fulfill the promise of Athenian democracy. In fact, they were compromising the concept of democracy. And to make this argument I am going to address the inefficiency of assembly as well as the selection. In addition, although representation was avoided, there was invisible representation with in the private realm of Athens, which dominated the assembly.In the early years, assembly was gathered frequently throughout the year, forty times at a minimum, and it generally reached a decision on a proposal in single day of debate (Finley 1985, 19). However, as...

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