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Development Of Democracy In Athens Essay

2315 words - 9 pages

Development of Democracy in Athens

Democracy comes from two Greek words: a noun demos which means, "people" and a verb, kratein, which means "to rule" (Ober 120). Democracy first appeared in Athens towards the beginning of the fifth century B.C. The biggest difference between Athenian democracy and almost all other democracies is that the Athenian version was a direct democracy rather than being representative. Democracy came about in Athens as a result of the growing navel power and the reforms made by leaders such as Cleisthenes and Pericles.
The city-state of Athens, 5th century Athens to be precise, is the inventor and first practitioner of democracy. So for 4,000 years men and women lived under forms of government other than democratic. For some 2,500 years now democracy has existed, with varying degrees of consistency of theory and practice. But it all began in the 5th century before Christ in Athens. The development of democracy can be attributed to the development of Athens as naval power. With the growing navel so grew the political voice of the lowest property classes who provided the crews for the ships (Demand 222). To some extent the Athenian reliance on sea power helped the course of democracy.
The biggest difference between Athenian democracy and all other democracies is that the Athenian version was a direct democracy rather than representative. It would seem the kind of direct democracy that Athens had might lead to anarchy at the worst and arbitrary decisions or unstable policies at the least. Both ancient and modern democratic experiments have shown that the will of the people sometimes is undeceive, changing to and fro with every rhetorical wind that blows. Yet, as surprising as it may seem, Athenian democracy worked fairly well. The main reason for its success was the quality of the citizens. From the days of Solon the Athenians like the rest of the Greeks had a deep respect for what they called "the golden mean", which meant that they avoided extremes in politics (Ober 97).
The laws for Athens began with Solon, but perhaps the most influential leader for democracy in Athens was Cleisthenes. In 510 Cleisthenes had managed to get the sons of Peisistratus kicked out of Athens with Spartan help (Demand 157). But now the old internal divisions, which had plagued Athens since Solon's time, reasserted themselves. Herodotus says in his history of Greece that Cleisthenes decided to turn to the people (Herodotus 302). Perhaps he did so solely out of practical political reasons: he needed a powerful force on his side now that the Spartans had turned against him. Although, his major motivation may have been to produce a government that would unify Athenians by all, rich and poor alike. Unity, perhaps, rather democracy, was his immediate goal. But it was democracy that he would prove to be the means to the unification of the people of Athens.
Cleisthenes began his reforms with the reorganization of the tribes. Athens, like...

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