Development of Democracy in Athens

Powerful Essays
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 d...

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...ney. How democratic was the Athenian government? It was democratic in the sense that participation by the people was mandatory in order to run the government. But the participation of the people excluded women and slaves. Later under Pericles this came to include men who were not born to parents who were natives of Athens. The democracy in Athens gave a stepping stone to what is seen today as democracy.


Works Cited

Demand, Nancy. A History of Ancient Greece. McGraw Hill:

New York. 1996.

Herodotus. The Histories. Trans. Aubrey De Selincourt

revised. Penguin Books: New York. 1996.

Kagan, Donald. Pericles of Athens and the Birth of

Democracy. The Free Press: New York. 1991.

Ober, Josiah. The Athenian Revolution: Essays on Ancient

Greek Democracy and Political Theory. Princeton

University Press: New Jersey. 1996.
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