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How Effective Was Athenian Democracy? Essay

1905 words - 8 pages

Plan of Investigation
Between the years of 508 BCE and 322 CE, Greece flourished under democracy. However, some question if the flourishing of Athens is due to the democracy that was in place as opposed to other factors relevant in building a successful community. This investigation will examine the effectiveness of Athenian democracy in Greek society. Relevance of Athenian democracy can be seen in foundation of many democracies found worldwide. In this investigation the right to vote, protection of minorities, use of social class, the structure of democracy and how Greek democracy has influenced the world will be addressed. The place investigated will be Greece, specifically the capitol Athens. The effectiveness of Athenian democracy can be seen in social structure, protection of minorities, and right to vote, as well as its structure and influence of other countries around the world.

Summary of Evidence
• Democracy literally means “people-power”
• 4th century BC
o hundreds of Greek democracies spread over Greece
o not a single political entity but a collection of 1,500 separate poleis or 'cities' around the Mediterranean and Black Sea
o Those cities that were not democracies were oligarchies…
 Where power was in the hands of the few richest citizens
o Or monarchies
• Of the democracies, the oldest, most stable, was Athens
Social Structure/Class-
• Households
o Within the household there would be a land owner
o Wife and children of the house owner would come next in the hierarchy
o Paid servants
o Slaves
• “The foundation of Athenian democracy was the deme , a sort of village ward.”
o communities that gave members political identity
• The next level of structure was the tribe
o 10 tribes
 Army had one regiment for each tribe , and competitions at festivals were often arranged by tribe
Disenfranchised groups of Ancient Greece-
• Fifth-century Athens
o 3,000,000- Men, women and children, free and unfree, enfranchised and disenfranchised
 Of those 3,000,000 some 30,000 on average were fully paid-up citizens - the adult males of Athenian birth and full status
• Of those 30,000 perhaps 5,000 might regularly attend one or more meetings of the popular Assembly
• Women
o Athenian women
o limited right to property
 not considered full citizens
o Women could only acquire rights over property through gifts, dowry and inheritance
o Athenian women could enter a contract worth less than the value of a “medimnos of barley” (a measure of grain), allowing women to only engage in petty trading
o The only permanent barrier to citizenship in ancient Athens was gender. No women ever acquired citizenship in ancient Athens
 Women were excluded in principle and practice from ancient Athenian democracy
• Slaves
o Slaves made up around four-fifths of the population of Ancient Athens not including rural areas surrounding Athens where there was an even greater need for slave labor ...

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