Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Athenian Democracy

Athens had one of the earliest forms of democracy in the known world. Even though the democracy of the United States resembles the Athenian democracy in some ways, they are very different. To be allowed to vote and be a citizen in Athens, you had to be a male with both parents born in Athens. This consisted of only 10-15% of the Athenian population. In Pericles's funeral oration, he spends most of his time commending and flaunting the achievements of Athens and its people. The Athenian democracy was also a direct democracy as opposed to the indirect democracy of the United States, but American citizens would not consider Athens a full democracy because such as small percentage of their population could vote. The middle ground of democracy in Athens allowed it to flourish in the arts and expression while still being a strong and powerful military and colonizing force.

6 comments:

Savannah Watermeier said...

I'm not sure that Athens could be considered a direct democracy. They had the Council of 400/500. The council and the ruler enacted and voted on laws, not the people. Athens said they were a democracy, but were they really? Most things were handled by the ruler, and only 10% could vote. Compared to other civilizations of the time, they were definitely more progressive. However, compared to the United States, they really aren't all that.

Rickeia Coleman said...

I also find trouble believing that Athens had such a "great" democracy. As stated only 10% of people could vote and those percentage of people felt like they were born with something that others in Athens weren't. It's funny that Pericles tried to appeal to so many people so that they would believe Athens was a new type of land where the voice of the people mattered. In reality, most of the population consisted of slaves who had no say whatsoever. Interestingly in the US, we experienced a somewhat similar history during early ages when only white males could vote because women and minority races weren't considered important enough to vote. As a result, the US and Athens shares a piece of history even though the US is much more reformed now.

Dylan Bryan said...

I agree with Joseph on this topic. I think that Athens is regarded as having the first democracy, but it was not all that we think of today when we think of democracy. Athens said they were representing the people, but only about 10% of people were allowed to participate in government. Women and slaves are surely people as well; however, they were not represented in Athenian democracy. I do believe though, that since Athens laid the foundation, civilizations since have progressed democracy more and more. Today in the United States, women are allowed to participate in the democracy just like men. The U.S. might even soon have its first female government. Even though Athens did not completely perfect democracy, they created a system that has been progressed by civilizations and still is very prominent today.

Joseph Martin said...

When considering "Athenian democracy" it is hard to compare it to the democracy of today. This is because the mentality of the average citizen has changed over thousands of years. You also must consider that education was not widespread at this time in the world. Even though Athens prided themselves on their education, I think only the affluent were able to take advantage of this education. Athenian democracy can be considered a partial direct democracy because those considered citizens, who were rich and knowledgeable enough, could participate directly in government, not only through elected officials. The limited number of citizens allowed this method to be direct and still work.

Luke Jeanfreau said...

I think early Athenian democracy draws a lot of parallels with early American democracy. Initially, only landowning white males could vote. Over the next few hundred years, this right was extended to non-landowning men, men of all races, and women of all races. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920. Even if the early democracy was still not true democracy, it was still better than all the other forms of government for the time. Freedom for the few is better than freedom for none.

Luke Jeanfreau said...

I also think it is interesting how movies like 200 have affected our perception of ancient Greece in pop culture. Sparta is, a lot of the time, seen as the peak of Greek civilization. Bu tin reality the thing Sparta is most known for is their skill in warfare. We need to look at Athens in addition, because the fact that the Greeks invented democracy is much more important than their skill in warfare.