Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Democracy has been a real state system for some 2,500 years now. It all started in Athens in the center of the 5th century BC, this advanced way of government set the foundations for the development of our own democracy. Democracy, as a concept, is connected first of all with freedom, with an equality and with an order. This three primary concept of democracies is still hotly debated and many argue based on the ideology of democracy freedom, order and equality how democratic was Athenian democracy and even more how democratic approaches of government we have today? Any of them are faced with a heavy dilemma. These dilemmas depend on the principles of conflicting thinking which define different values for the principles of freedom, order and equality. Based on different perspectives, based on different standards, some people may say that Athenian democracy is more like oligarchy not democracy, because Democracy was governed by male citizens only, excluding females, free foreigners and slaves, and from today’s perspective democracy is the rule of the individuals as a whole, however we should ask whether the ideological elements of modern democracy are the same as those of Athenian democracy and, based on modern-day views, can we criticize Athenian democracy? In fact, since it first came into being, the good and bad sides of this type of government have been discussed. In order to understand the role of Athenian democracy, I think we should look at the matter from the Athenian perspective of the 5th century BC and take into account the political background in Athens at the time, and if we take into account at that time the situation in Athens, it can be said that Athenian democracy was sufficiently democratic to be called democratic.
First of all, Athens and most other Greek city-states were ruled by oligarchy, tyranny and monarchy before democracy. Kings or tyranny is a system of government in which one-person rule and oligarchy merely implies ‘ruled by a few,’ the top public positions were held only by the elite class or the aristocracy. The decisions were mainly taken to protect the interests of the aristocrats. The Athenian aristocrats had monopolized the political decision-making process and we can say that the interests of the main population were neglected. All this increased the inequality between rich and poor. In the early 6th Century BC, the people of Athens were burdened with debt, social division and inequality, with poor farmers prepared to sell themselves into slavery. Based on this sort of government that placed Athens in the profound social crisis, the only alternative was to implement the modifications. changes were produced by Solon, was the first move towards democracy because Solon’s modifications produced a sense of citizenship. He abolished debt bondage, men who had been enslaved for debt were freed and enslavement for debt was abolished once and for all, restricted property ownership, changed structures of Athenian society, split the body of the citizen into groups with distinct amounts of riches and associated economic commitments (citizens were divided into four property classes: pentakosiomedimnoi (500-bushel men), hippeis (horsemen), zeugitai (farmers with a team of oxen), and thetes with little or no landed property). The citizen enjoyed personal freedom and participated in communal life. The division of the society was important, as citizens, all were politically equal in the assembly, the circle of the political elite was reduced. Ultimately, power was located in the citizens’ collective institutions, especially the assembly; only these institutions held political responsibility and were entitled to make decisions. However, another angle of this discussion indicates that wealth was still used in Solon’s reform as a measure to split the public, and controls over the state and decision-making process were still in the hands of first-class officials, as only members of the first class could hold the archon office and inequalities between rich and poor, nobles and commoners continued, However, wealth has always defined the amount of direct or indirect impact on various social groups and politics, even today.
We can claim how high a level of democracy was in Athens after Solon’s reforms, but it is fact that after the reforms carried out by Solon, the citizens of Athens felt citizenship, the people were involved in the discussion of issues, the adoption of laws and decision-making processes, since all citizens are equally affected by the consequences of disorder no one can withdraw from the political group, the citizens alone were held responsible for the situation of their society. Direct engagement into politics of male citizens should be regarded as democratic action. Solon’s law changed the political mentality in society and the level of of government private accountability, Awareness of civil obligation in Athens was much greater than the people of contemporary democratic nations today.
Secondly, the formation of democratic governance in Athens has not been stopped by Solon’s reforms. Furthermore, Solon’s new political mentality needed to be tested and eventually emerged in more variables. Solon’s vision of state governance was a transitional period and In the year 507 B.C., Athenian leader Cleisthenes implemented a scheme of political reforms that he called democratia, or ‘ rule by the people.’ He engaged more citizens in decision-making, he attempted to diminish the authority of aristocrats and safeguard individuals from the oppression of local nobles by creating new administrative units. This system consisted of three separate institutions: the ekklesia, a sovereign governing body that wrote laws and dictated foreign policy (6000 citizens); the boule, a council of representatives from the ten Athenian tribes (500 hundred citizens); and the dikasteria, the popular courts in which citizens argued cases before a group of jurors (6000 citizens). All members of the administrative units were selected by lottery (To guarantee that wealthy and powerful men would not have influence on elections and would not be favored by election) every year to serve in ekklesia or in Boule. No citizen could serve as a member of assembly more than twice in a lifetime and first only one term was allowed. The level of active involvement in politics was greater in ancient Athens