It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The word "democracy" (Greek: δημοκρατία) combines the elements dêmos (δῆμος, which means "people", "neighbourhood", "district") and krátos (κράτος, which means "force" or "power"). In the words "monarchy" and "oligarchy", the second element arche (ἀρχή) means "rule", "leading" or "being first". It is unlikely that the term "democracy" was coined by its detractors who rejected the possibility of a valid "demarchy", as the word "demarchy" already existed and had the meaning of mayor or municipal. One could assume the new term was coined and adopted by Athenian democrats.
Therefore, by the 6th century BC, the majority of Athenians "had been 'enslaved' to the rich", and they called upon Plato's ancestor Solon, premier archon at the time, to liberate them and halt the feuding of the aristocracy. However, the "enfranchisement of the local laboring classes was succeeded by the development of chattel slavery, the enslavement of, in large part, foreigners."
The non-citizen component of the population was made up of resident foreigners (metics) and slaves, with the latter perhaps somewhat more numerous. Around 338 BC the orator Hyperides (fragment 13) claimed that there were 150,000 slaves in Attica, but this figure is probably no more than an impression: slaves outnumbered those of citizen stock but did not swamp them.......
...The women had limited rights and privileges, had restricted movement in public, and were very segregated from the men.
In 594 BC Solon is said to have created a boule of 400 to guide the work of the assembly. After the reforms of Cleisthenes, the Athenian Boule was expanded to 500, and was elected by lot every year. Each of Cleisthenes's 10 tribes provided 50 councillors who were at least 30 years old.
The most important task of the Athenian Boule was to draft the deliberations (probouleumata) for discussion and approval in the Ecclesia. The Boule also directed finances, controlled the maintenance of the fleet and of the cavalry, judged the fitness of the magistrates-elect, received foreign ambassadors, advised the stratēgoi (generals) in military matters, and could be given special powers by the Ecclesia in an emergency.
The central events of the Athenian democracy were the meetings of the assembly (ἐκκλησία, ekklêsia). Unlike a parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose. Greek democracy created at Athens was direct, rather than representative: any adult male citizen over the age of 20 could take part, and it was a duty to do so. The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in large part chosen by lottery in a process called sortition. The assembly had four main functions: it made executive pronouncements (decrees, such as deciding to go to war or granting citizenship to a foreigner); it elected some officials; it legislated; and it tried political crimes. As the system evolved, the last function was shifted to the law courts. The standard format was that of speakers making speeches for and against a position followed by a general vote (usually by show of hands) of yes or no.
If the assembly broke the law, the only thing that might happen is that it would punish those who had made the proposal that it had agreed to. If a mistake had been made, from the assembly's viewpoint it could only be because it had been misled.
Athens had an elaborate legal system centered on full citizen rights (see atimia). The age limit of 30 or older, the same as that for office holders but ten years older than that required for participation in the assembly, gave the courts a certain standing in relation to the assembly. Jurors were required to be under oath, which was not required for attendance at the assembly. The authority exercised by the courts had the same basis as that of the assembly: both were regarded as expressing the direct will of the people. Unlike office holders (magistrates), who could be impeached and prosecuted for misconduct, the jurors could not be censured, for they, in effect, were the people and no authority could be higher than that. A corollary of this was that, at least acclaimed by defendants, if a court had made an unjust decision, it must have been because it had been misled by a litigant. Essentially there were two grades of suit, a smaller kind known as dike (δίκη) or private suit, and a larger kind known as graphe or public suit. For private suits the minimum jury size was 200 (increased to 401 if a sum of over 1000 drachmas was at issue), for public suits 501. Under Cleisthenes' reforms, juries were selected by lot from a panel of 600 jurors, there being 600 jurors from each of the ten tribes of Athens, making a jury pool of 6000 in total. For particularly important public suits the jury could be increased by adding in extra allotments of 500. 1000 and 1500 are regularly encountered as jury sizes and on at least one occasion, the first time a new kind of case was brought to court (see graphē paranómōn), all 6,000 members of the jury pool may have attended to one case.
Athenian democracy has had many critics, both ancient and modern. Ancient Greek critics of the 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. Modern critics are more likely to find fault with the narrow definition of the citizen body, but in the ancient world the complaint, if anything, went in the opposite direction. For them, the common people were not necessarily the right people to rule and had made huge mistakes. According to Samons:
Also, Donald Kagan writes that "In the fourth century, Plato and Aristotle must have been repeating old complaints when they pointed out the unfairness of democracy: 'it distributes a sort of equality to equal and unequal alike'." Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which 'everyone' has equal rights, the critics saw it as the numerically preponderant poor tyrannizing the rich. They regarded this as manifestly unjust. In Aristotle this is categorized as the difference between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' (i.e. proportional) equality.
In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial and executed for 'corrupting the young and believing in strange gods'. 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' arguments at his trial, Loren Samons writes, "It follows, of course, that any majority—including the majority of jurors—is unlikely to choose rightly." However, "some might argue, Athens is the only state that can claim to have produced a Socrates. 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."
Alexander the Great had led a coalition of the Greek states to war with Persia in 336 BC, but his Greek soldiers were hostages for the behavior of their states as much as allies. His relations with Athens were already strained when he returned to Babylon in 324 BC; after his death, Athens and Sparta led several Greek states to war with Macedon and lost.
However, when Rome fought Macedonia in 200, the Athenians abolished the first two new tribes and created a twelfth tribe in honour of the Pergamene king. The Athenians declared for Rome, and in 146 B.C. Athens became an autonomous civitas foederata. "Her independence was however little more than municipal, and, though the forms of the democracy survived, Rome ... strengthened the aristocratic elements in the constitution."
In 88 BC, there was a revolution under the philosopher Athenion, who, as tyrant, forced the Assembly to agree to elect whomever he might ask to office. Athenion allied with Mithridates of Pontus, and went to war with Rome; he was killed during the war, and was replaced by Aristion. The victorious Roman general, Publius Cornelius Sulla, left the Athenians their lives and did not sell them into slavery; he also restored the previous government, in 86 BC.
After Rome became an Empire under Augustus, the nominal independence of Athens dissolved and its government converged to the normal type for a Roman municipality, with a Senate of decuriones.
The problem with the US system today is that it has become the case that too many have come to realize they can vote for largesse from the public trough. Direct Democracy would only make that worse
The other problem the US has is open borders. When the rest of the world realized that they could come to the US and vote for more and more entitlements, the country, such as it is, would be overwhelmed. Even without direct Democracy, the US is already being overwhelmed.
The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in large part chosen by lottery in a process called sortition.
Unlike a parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose.
In fact pure Athenian democracy becomes impossible once your territory is larger than a small town.
originally posted by: WanderingNomadd
People had the right, and duty (not enforced more honour bound), to attend when they chose.