Democracy In Greece And Its Citizenship

1330 words - 6 pages

Question: How did the Greeks start a democracy and make it evolve? How was the citizenship in Greece, was it equal?
Ancient Greece was separated into different city-states because of the high mountain ranges in the Peloponnese and northern Greece. One of the biggest changes to Greek life in Athens was the emergence of democracy, or rule by the people. Citizens of Greek cities overthrew their tyrants and set up governments ruled by citizens. Although citizens could speak and vote in democracy, women, slaves, and those born outside the city were excluded. This essay will explain how the Athenians moved toward democracy. It will explain how, unlike before, citizens of Athens participated directly in political decision making. Athens build a democracy with the help of many important men such as Solon and Cleisthenes. The laws of citizenship in Athens was always evolving.
When a young aristocrat named Kylon failed while trying to seize power and declare himself tyrant, his attempt made the Athenians recognize the stresses in Athens’ society. Peasants were oppressively poor and deeply in debt to the wealthy nobles. Common folk were growing impatient with aristocratic rule. The eupatridae, or best people, ordered the archon, or ruler, to change the laws. (Ed. Carroll Moulton. Vol. 2)
The archon was Solon, and he instituted many reforms. He canceled debts and used state funds to buy back Athenians who had been sold into slavery because of their debts. He also introduced a new constitution. Solon’s explanation for his actions are, "the laws I passed were alike for low-born and for high-born; my aim was straightforward justice for each." (Encyclopedia of World Biography) It gave all free men, even those who did not own land, the right to vote in the assembly that elected the archons, who came from the noble class. The nobles held many important powers, but Solon’s constitution gave some rights to the common man and created a sense of citizenship.
Solon was entrusted with full legislative powers. Solon eliminated divisions of birth in politics. All Athenians were classified into four social classes according to wealth. Only members of the top three classes could hold political office. All citizens could participate in the Athenian assembly. Liability for tax and military service and eligibility for office were defined in terms of the new classification. Solon also introduced the legal concept that any citizen could bring charges against wrongdoers. (textbook)
Solon introduced a second house, the Council of Four Hundred.The new house was designed not only to break the monopoly of the Areopagus Council but also to guide the Assembly of Citizens, in which men of all classes sat. This Assembly was self-governing in theory; but at a time of social and economic disruption Solon did not intend it to be sovereign in practice. He regarded the two councils as stabilizers. The Assembly was banned from considering any motion on which the Council of Four Hundred had...

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