Relationship between athenian democracy and modern

relationship between athenian democracy and modern

The contemporary sources which describe the workings of democracy typically relate to Athens and include such texts as the Constitution of the Athenians from. Association Fornara, Charles W., and garchical Tendencies of Modern Democ- racy. Trans. and the Origins of Athenian Democracy." In Cultural. The Acropolis of Athens is a potent symbol of the history of democracy. But there are many facets of Greek democracy that didn't catch on.

Running the courts was one of the major expenses of the Athenian state and there were moments of financial crisis in the 4th century when the courts, at least for private suits, had to be suspended. No judges presided over the courts, nor did anyone give legal direction to the jurors. Magistrates had only an administrative function and were laymen. Most of the annual magistracies in Athens could only be held once in a lifetime.

There were no lawyers as such; litigants acted solely in their capacity as citizens. Whatever professionalism there was tended to disguise itself; it was possible to pay for the services of a speechwriter or logographer logographosbut this may not have been advertised in court. Jurors would likely be more impressed if it seemed as though litigants were speaking for themselves.

Starting in BC, political trials were no longer held in the assembly, but only in a court. Under this, anything passed or proposed by the assembly could be put on hold for review before a jury — which might annul it and perhaps punish the proposer as well. Remarkably, it seems that blocking and then successfully reviewing a measure was enough to validate it without needing the assembly to vote on it.

For example, two men have clashed in the assembly about a proposal put by one of them; it passes, and now the two of them go to court with the loser in the assembly prosecuting both the law and its proposer. The quantity of these suits was enormous. The courts became in effect a kind of upper house. In the 5th century, there were no procedural differences between an executive decree and a law.

They were both simply passed by the assembly. However, beginning in BC, they were set sharply apart. Henceforth, laws were made not in the assembly, but by special panels of citizens drawn from the annual jury pool of 6, This expression encapsulated the right of citizens to take the initiative to stand to speak in the assembly, to initiate a public lawsuit that is, one held to affect the political community as a wholeto propose a law before the lawmakers, or to approach the council with suggestions.

Unlike officeholders, the citizen initiator was not voted on before taking up office or automatically reviewed after stepping down; these institutions had, after all, no set tenure and might be an action lasting only a moment.

However, any stepping forward into the democratic limelight was risky. If another citizen initiator chose, a public figure could be called to account for their actions and punished. In situations involving a public figure, the initiator was referred to as a kategoros 'accuser'a term also used in cases involving homicide, rather than ho diokon 'the one who pursues'.

We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all. Archon and Areopagus Just before the reforms of Solon in the 7th century BC, Athens was governed by a few archons three, then later nine and the council of the Areopaguswhich was composed of members powerful noble families.

While there seems to have also been a type of citizen assembly presumably of the hoplite classthe archons and the body of the Areopagus ran the state and the mass of people had no say in government at all before these reforms. Since the Areopagus was made up of ex-archons, this would eventually mean the weakening of the hold of the nobles there as well.

15. Athenian Democracy

However, even with Solon's creation of the citizen's assembly, the Archons and Areopagus still wielded a great deal of power. In the play The Eumenidesperformed inAeschylushimself a noble, portrays the Areopagus as a court established by Athena herself, an apparent attempt to preserve the dignity of the Areopagus in the face of its disempowerment.

They were mostly chosen by lotwith a much smaller and more prestigious group of about elected. Neither was compulsory; individuals had to nominate themselves for both selection methods. In particular, those chosen by lot were citizens acting without particular expertise.

This was almost inevitable since, with the notable exception of the generals strategoieach office had restrictive term limits. For example, a citizen could only be a member of the Boule in two non-consecutive years in their life. Age restrictions were in place with thirty years as a minimum, rendering about a third of the adult citizen body ineligible at any one time. An unknown proportion of citizens were also subject to disenfranchisement atimiaexcluding some of them permanently and others temporarily depending on the type.

Furthermore, all citizens selected were reviewed before taking up office dokimasia at which time they might be disqualified.

Athenian democracy - Wikipedia

While citizens voting in the assembly were free of review or punishment, those same citizens when holding an office served the people and could be punished very severely. In addition to being subject to review prior to holding office, officeholders were also subject to an examination after leaving office euthunai, 'straightenings' or 'submission of accounts' to review their performance.

Both of these processes were in most cases brief and formulaic, but they opened up the possibility of a contest before a jury court if some citizen wanted to take a matter up. Even during his period of office, any officeholder could be impeached and removed from office by the assembly.

In each of the ten "main meetings" kuriai ekklesiai a year, the question was explicitly raised in the assembly agenda: Citizens active as officeholders served in a quite different capacity from when they voted in the assembly or served as jurors. By and large, the power exercised by these officials was routine administration and quite limited.

These officeholders were the agents of the people, not their representatives, so their role was that of administration, rather than governing. The powers of officials were precisely defined and their capacity for initiative limited. When it came to penal sanctions, no officeholder could impose a fine over fifty drachmas.

Anything higher had to go before a court. Competence does not seem to have been the main issue, but rather, at least in the 4th century BC, whether they were loyal democrats or had oligarchic tendencies.

Part of the ethos of democracy, rather, was the building of general competence by ongoing involvement. In the 5th century setup, the ten annually elected generals were often very prominent, but for those who had power, it lay primarily in their frequent speeches and in the respect accorded them in the assembly, rather than their vested powers.

Selection by lot[ edit ] The allotment of an individual was based on citizenship, rather than merit or any form of personal popularity which could be bought. Allotment therefore was seen as a means to prevent the corrupt purchase of votes and it gave citizens political equality, as all had an equal chance of obtaining government office.

This also acted as a check against demagoguerythough this check was imperfect and did not prevent elections from involving pandering to voters. Athenians selected for office served as teams boards, panels. In a group, one person is more likely to know the right way to do things and those that do not may learn from those that do.

During the period of holding a particular office, everyone on the team would be observing everybody else as a sort of check. However, there were officials, such as the nine archons, who while seemingly a board carried out very different functions from each other. No office appointed by lot could be held twice by the same individual.


The only exception was the boule or council of In this case, simply by demographic necessity, an individual could serve twice in a lifetime. This principle extended down to the secretaries and undersecretaries who served as assistants to magistrates such as the archons. To the Athenians, it seems what had to be guarded against was not incompetence but any tendency to use office as a way of accumulating ongoing power.

There were two main categories in this group: One reason that financial officials were elected was that any money embezzled could be recovered from their estates; election in general strongly favoured the rich, but in this case wealth was virtually a prerequisite. Generals were elected not only because their role required expert knowledge, but also because they needed to be people with experience and contacts in the wider Greek world where wars were fought.

In the 5th century BC, principally as seen through the figure of Periclesthe generals could be among the most powerful people in the polis. Yet in the case of Pericles, it is wrong to see his power as coming from his long series of annual generalships each year along with nine others.

His officeholding was rather an expression and a result of the influence he wielded. That influence was based on his relation with the assembly, a relation that in the first instance lay simply in the right of any citizen to stand and speak before the people. Under the 4th century version of democracy, the roles of general and of key political speaker in the assembly tended to be filled by different persons. In part, this was a consequence of the increasingly specialized forms of warfare practiced in the later period.

Elected officials, too, were subject to review before holding office and scrutiny after office. And they could also be removed from office at any time that the assembly met. There was even a death penalty for "inadequate performance" while in office. Slavery in ancient Greece Athenian democracy has had many critics, both ancient and modern. Ancient Greek critics of Athenian 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.

While modern critics are more likely to find fault with the restrictive qualifications for political involvement, these ancients viewed democracy as being too inclusive. For them, the common people were not necessarily the right people to rule and were likely to make huge mistakes. The modern desire to look to Athens for lessons or encouragement for modern thought, government, or society must confront this strange paradox: And what is more, the actual history of Athens in the period of its democratic government is marked by numerous failures, mistakes, and misdeeds—most infamously, the execution of Socrates—that would seem to discredit the ubiquitous modern idea that democracy leads to good government.

For example, he points to errors regarding Sparta ; Athenians erroneously believed that Sparta's kings each had two votes in their ruling council and that there existed a Spartan battalion called Pitanate lochos. To Thucydides, this carelessness was due to common peoples' "preference for ready-made accounts". Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which everyone has equal rights, they regarded it as manifestly unjust. In Aristotle's works, this is categorized as the difference between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' i.

Two examples demonstrate this: In BC, after years of defeats in the wake of the annihilation of their vast invasion force in Sicily, the Athenians at last won a naval victory at Arginusae over the Spartans. After the battle, a storm arose and the generals in command failed to collect survivors.

The Athenians tried and sentenced six of the eight generals to death. Technically, it was illegal, as the generals were tried and sentenced together, rather than one by one as Athenian law required. Socrates happened to be the citizen presiding over the assembly that day and refused to cooperate though to little effect and stood against the idea that it was outrageous for the people to be unable to do whatever they wanted.

In addition to this unlawful injustice, the demos later on regretted the decision and decided that they had been misled. Those charged with misleading the demos were put on trial, including the author of the motion to try the generals together.

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's arguments at his trial, Loren Samons writes, "It follows, of course, that any majority—including the majority of jurors—is unlikely to choose rightly.

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. Much of his writings were about his alternatives to democracy.

His The RepublicThe Statesmanand Laws contained many arguments against democratic rule and in favour of a much narrower form of government: For instance, the system of nomothesia was introduced. A new law might be proposed by any citizen. Any proposal to modify an existing law had to be accompanied by a proposed replacement law. The citizen making the proposal had to publish it [in] advance: The proposal would be considered by the Council, and would be placed on the agenda of the Assembly in the form of a motion.

If the Assembly voted in favor of the proposed change, the proposal would be referred for further consideration by a group of citizens called nomothetai literally "establishers of the law".

That is to say, the mass meeting of all citizens lost some ground to gatherings of a thousand or so which were under oath, and with more time to focus on just one matter though never more than a day. One downside to this change was that the new democracy was less capable of responding quickly in times where quick, decisive action was needed. Another tack of criticism is to notice the disquieting links between democracy and a number of less than appealing features of Athenian life.

Although democracy predated Athenian imperialism by over thirty years, they are sometimes associated with each other. For much of the 5th century at least, democracy fed off an empire of subject states. Thucydides the son of Milesias not the historianan aristocrat, stood in opposition to these policies, for which he was ostracised in BC. At times the imperialist democracy acted with extreme brutality, as in the decision to execute the entire male population of Melos and sell off its women and children simply for refusing to become subjects of Athens.

The common people were numerically dominant in the navy, which they used to pursue their own interests in the form of work as rowers and in the hundreds of overseas administrative positions. Furthermore, they used the income from empire to fund payment for officeholding. This is the position set out by the anti-democratic pamphlet known whose anonymous author is often called the Old Oligarch.

This writer also called pseudo-Xenophon produced several comments critical of democracy, such as: Collectivizing political responsibility lends itself to both dishonest practices and scapegoating individuals when measures become unpopular. By being inclusive, opponents to the system become naturally included within the democratic framework, meaning democracy itself will generate few opponents, despite its flaws.

A democratic Athens with an imperial policy will spread the desire for democracy outside of the polis.

The democratic government depends on the control of resources, which requires military power and material exploitation. The values of freedom of equality include non-citizens more than it should. By blurring the distinction between the natural and political world, democracy leads the powerful to act immorally and outside their own best interest.

Aristotle also wrote about what he considered to be a better form of government than democracy. Rather than any citizen partaking with equal share in the rule, he thought that those who were more virtuous should have greater power in governance. By so strongly validating one role, that of the male citizen, it has been argued that democracy compromised the status of those who did not share it. Originally, a male would be a citizen if his father was a citizen, Under Periclesin BC, restrictions were tightened so that a citizen had to be born to an Athenian father and an Athenian mother.

So Metroxenoi, those with foreign mothers, were now to be excluded. These mixed marriages were also heavily penalized by the time of Demosthenes. Many Athenians prominent earlier in the century would have lost citizenship had this law applied to them: Cleisthenesthe founder of democracy, had a non-Athenian mother, and the mothers of Cimon and Themistocles were not Greek at all, but Thracian.

He ultimately fell to a tyrant-led coup that reversed his reforms, but his ideas and innovations set the stage for Cleisthenes' more ambitious leadership. Later, Armed with Spartan military assistance and advice from the Oracle of Delphi, Cleisthenes wrested power from the tyrant Hippias. But he soon lost Sparta's support and a new tyrant Isagoras unseated him. After his removal, Cleisthenes realized that the power of wealthy elites must be radically reduced.

It was the only way to stabilize the government enough to enact democratic reforms. During the rule of Isagoras, poor Athenians stretched by growing economic disparity became politicized and demanded representation Powell, Cleisthenes' second bid for power came when Athens fell apart and the people rose up to request that Cleisthenes return to set up a demos, the world's first government by the people.

Bolstered by popular support and strong military backing, Cleisthenes returned to power and stopped progression of tyrant rulers. Cleisthenes moved to dilute the power of the wealthy aristocrats who had resisted reform.

To do this, he broke family dynasties and divided Athenians into 10 new tribal groups called demes. Local governance was organized within each deme, and each deme would send popularly elected representatives to participate in a national legislative body. This was the world's first example of direct democracy. The concept therefore traces its origins from the ancient Greeks and specifically the city-state of Athens in the fifth century B. C as earlier stated. Originally the Greeks used it to mean the poor or the masses.

  • Viewpoint: Would Athenian-style democracy work in the UK today?

The French Revolution of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the implementation of Universal suffrage by Finland, first world war, saw temporary victory of democracy which coin the ideas embedded in the general meaning of modern democracy and practice.

Furthermore, the February Revolution in Russian saw the establishment of liberal democracy for a few months.

Athenian democracy

Additionally, the post- World War II saw the triumph of democracy for the rising of representative governments. Additionally democracy is believed to be associated with a system of government in which the people rule themselves directly and continuously, without the need for professional politicians or public officials; a society based on equal opportunity and individual merit, rather than hierarchy or privilege, a system of welfare and redistribution aimed at narrowing social inequalities, a system of decision-making based on the principle of majority rule, a system of rule that protects the rights and interests of minorities by placing checks upon the power of the majority, a means of filling public offices through a competitive struggle for the popular vote, and a system of government that serves the interests of the people regardless of their participation in political office Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Talking of democracy in my own view, i look at it at an angle of a fair and equal political, social and economic participation of all competent, concerned, willing and organized individuals for their own good.

It can be seen as an aspect of giving room for expert contribution, concerned as giving chance to individual service recipients in policy making and other forms of political participation, willing as all concerned people in the policy making on aspects to do with social, political and economic welfare and Organized citizens as collective participation of civil society that is media, Non-Government Organizations, Professional association, Trade unions and cultural groups among many others.

More so, Democracy is based on the activities, programmes and structures aimed at enhancing the practice and enforcement of democratic ideologies as, Citizen involvement, equality, rule of law, political broadmindedness, accountability, transparency, regular, free and fair elections, economic freedom, control of the abuse of power, human rights, and multi-party system of governance among others.

Besides the above presented facts, democracy today is a loan-word from ancient Greek demokratia, comparing and contrasting of the two has turned into an academic exercise today with divergent thoughts as many have concluded that almost there is nothing directly in common between ancient and modern democracy.

However, with reference to this paper, the foregoing analysis elaborates the revealed similarities between ancient and modern democracy with relevant examples. Putting it in the other way, there is more than one arm of the government. With reference to Athenian democracy, they divided up into three branches of governance namely the Ekklesia, Boule and the Dikasteria an aspect that relate to the modern system of government for instance, in Uganda, the government is composed of three major arms and that is to say, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary Uganda at Glance: Office of the Prime Minister-Government of Uganda.

To throw more light on this, the Ekklesia consisted the city-state Assembly comparable to the modern legislative arm of the government as it forms the basis of peoples elected representatives. The Boule comprised of the Athenian Popular Council of citizens and its mandate was to draw up the agenda for the Ekklesia. In relation to the modern democracy system, it resembles the executive that is concerned with policy, Acts and law issues in the meaning of current governments like Uganda.

The Dikasteria composed of juries comparable to the judicial branch of modern government as it concerned its matters in handling cases and related issues. Thus in both ancient and modern democracy we see this common feature.

In both we see lack of genuine and general representation for a city-state in ancient Athenian democracy per Se or a Nation in this modern era. Glancing at ancient Athens, the most advanced Grecian city-state, more than half the population was made up of slaves. A small percentage was of foreign residents, and about 40, were men over the estimated overpeople that comprised Athens. Women did not have full democratic rights, Grecian democracy never allowed slaves and women into the democratic process as it can be evidenced from the Ekklesia protocol Katz, They were kept as minorities, non-property owners and denied voting rights.

Common in all also, is the aspect of Nationalism and Patriotism, borrowing from the Athenian democracy to illustrate this, Athens were always in warfare especially with her neighboring city- state of Sparta and others for instance, Greco-Persian war B.

C, Peloponnesian wars B. C, among others that were staged during Pericles mighty reign Thorley, Another sketched similarity between ancient and modern democracy is that, meetings transpired regularly in ancient democracies which is the case even in modern democratic countries. Drawing from the Athenian democracy, the citizen Assembly used to meet at least 40 times each year to deal with issues both political, social and economic, approximately citizens attended each meeting Hansen, which is in the same line with the regular meetings in the modern era of democracy which seat day and night over political, social and economic Local, National and international issues for instance, diplomacy, taxation, climate change, Sustainable development and Terrorism among others.

Both ancient and modern democracy are seen being criticized of not being appropriate system of governance. Noting at length, many influential ancient philosophers of the time opposed democracy in its meaning and practice as an inefficient system of governance for instance 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.

These criticized democracy on grounds that, rule by the demos was reckless and arbitrary reaching an extent of attributing Socrates death on democracy by Plato Ober, Josiah; Wallace, Robert, They therefore advocated for other system of governance. In relation to modern democracy, they are alike of the flaws of insufficiently embedding the religious beliefs, respect of the extended family, traditional forms and love for the country hence seen as an inefficient system of governance and thus a need to get rid of it Simon, Ranking at the fore front is that, Ancient democracy was direct and modern democracy is representative democracy.

Specializing in Athenian democracy as a case study, Athenian democracy was direct were by citizens gathered usually on an outdoor hillside to argue, debate and ask questions before they all voted on any issue. Each person had an equal say in what government would do.

The citizens of Athens used a simple majority vote to decide what to do. The citizens directly created new laws, acted as judges, decided when to go to war, and who to make alliance with. When there was no adequate people to make a decision, slaves were sent out to force citizens to show up and vote. To aggravate the matters, in this direct democracy, every citizen was eligible to vote on nearly every decision made in government and all officials were decided by random lot.

Contrary to this, modern democracy is indirect, democracy is practiced in representative way whereby citizens elect officials to represent them and these representatives do the majority of law making and governing. In other words, citizens chose whom they want to speak for them in the government and who to make decisions on their behalf. Thus this makes a clear difference between ancient and modern democracy. Additionally, the current aspects of police force and judges is another distinguishing factor between the ancient and modern democracy.

In ancient democracy, specifically Athenian demokratia, certain qualifications had to be met before being added to the pool for selection and service in the Dikasteria, but none really reflected any professional legal experience.

relationship between athenian democracy and modern

Alternatively, in modern democracy, with reference to United States of America as an example, the judicial branch is made up of judges either appointed by existing officials or, in some states, elected by the people, and while it is not required, some experience in the legal field generally precedes appointment to a judicial position.

Furthermore, there were no police or attorneys in ancient Greece. Instead, opponents were essentially arrested by the people or politically active citizens, themselves and were defended or prosecuted by citizens as well. This resulted in the court system being abused for the sake of personal grudges. However, in modern democratic countries both advanced and low practicing countries like Uganda, an objective police force and professional legal representatives exist to prevent such abuses.

The aspect of filling the government political positions as well reveals another great difference between ancient and modern democracy in away that in ancient democracy, lottery system of filling the government was used while as in modern democracy, free and fair election in the name of Adult Universal suffrage and secret vote is used as a system of filling the government political positions.

To clarify on this point, ancient democracies in Grecian city-states like Athens, members of the Boule were chosen by manner of random selection known as the lottery system whereby it was believed that it gave a chance to every citizen to serve in government and play official roles.

The council of chosen could serve for a maximum of two years and would handle daily governmental operations such as budget allocation. Contrary to this, in modern era democracy, a different approach is used whereby countries like America, German, France and Uganda itself, uses Presidential Nominations, Court appointments and other electoral methods other than Lottery system for filling government positions as the case presented in ancient democracy.

Important still, the facet of equality and Franchise manifests a clear difference between ancient democracy and modern democracy. Still using Athenian democracy as a case study of Ancient democracy, in practice, democracy did not extend equality and franchise to all persons and therefore allowed direct participation only by male citizens, small political elite, to the exclusion of the majority of the population consisting of women, slaves, and foreign residents.

relationship between athenian democracy and modern

Rights offered to citizens and non-citizens differed greatly Jameson, The government was therefore filled by a few privileged for instance, the Archons hence not emphasizing equality and the fact that only male citizens who were approximately 20years and above were the only one to vote and attend the Ekklesia, the right to vote or the franchise were as narrow as you can imagine if not violated.

In the eyes of modern democracy however, equality and individual rights to voting are at the forefront of democratic governments. People are always considered to be equal before the law and franchise are for all. It is a constitutional provision which cannot be ignored. Other institutions like the United Nations and the civil society Organizations, promote equality and Franchise rights in this modern era in order to eliminate exclusion and violation of fundamental human rights.

For instance, Steve Jobs who was born of a Syrian father and a German immigrant mother Isaacson, is an American though his father and mother are not originally American, he enjoys equal rights and freedom as native Americans which was hardly heard of in the ancient democracy.

All of these given examples are seen enjoying equal rights and freedoms of life and voting in these countries though they can be historically non-citizens of the countries were they are as evidenced, which was had to be seen and practiced in the ancient democracy hence a clear difference between ancient and modern democracy.

More so, key important to note, Ancient democracy lacked any formal system of checks and balances as opposed to modern democracy case.