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Democracy in Ancient Greece

The culture of Ancient Greece was the origin of civilization in the Western society about 4000 years back. Numerous outstanding achievements came from that culture in the areas of art, science, government, and philosophy among others that have continued to influence people’s lives up to the present day (Cartledge, 1993). This paper focuses on democracy as an aspect of the Ancient Greece culture that continues to manifest itself in the modern western society; the paper analyzes what aspect of it has changed and what have remained the same.

Democracy in Ancient Greece

Athens, an ancient city-state in Greek located in Attica, is the cradle of western society democracy (Cartledge, 1993). Athens’ initial penal and civil law code is owed to Draco, the man who is remembered for differentiating deliberate murder from unplanned manslaughter. Solon, an exceptional poet and statesman, acted in Athens during the same time as Draco. Solon was elected in 594BC as the first archon, the top state official who is comparable to a prime minister in the modern world. However, the difference is that archons were elected yearly, had judicial and executive powers, commanded the army, and carried out priestly functions. According to Cartledge (1993), Solon prepared the foundation for political changes in Athens i.e. he established the jury court and the Council of 400, separated Athens nationals into four groups on the basis of their agricultural output, regulated the system of weights and measures as well as significantly increased the rights of ekklesia (assembly of Athens’ citizens over the age of 20). In 510 BC, democracy existed in the world for the first time following Cleisthenes introduction of profound reforms, which were generally aimed at abolishing financial discrepancies and mix in the society and reducing aristocracy (Cartledge, 1993).

The establishment of Athenian democracy came due to continuous reorganizations. The term democracy comes from the words demos, meaning people, and kratos, meaning power. Therefore, democracy refers to the power of the people. Athenian democracy was majorly founded on the opportunity of every male citizen who is older than 20 years to participate in governing the country (Cartledge, 1993). Like any other democratic government, Athenian democracy had both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages included the fact that people residing outside Athens had limited chance of playing a part in the Assembly of Citizens. In addition, peasants could not vote particularly during harvesting seasons due to the long distance they had to cover to cast their votes. Another flaw greatly criticized by Aristotle and Plato was the fact that even in circumstances when the state was at risk, vital decisions had to be made in the Assembly notwithstanding the existence of a strategist’s office (Cartledge, 1993). A major advantage of the Athenian democracy was the fact that an archon and his 8 subordinates were chosen every year. Also, prolonging the rule of an archon for another term was a possibility, but in cases of abnormalities, a swift change of government occurred. Besides, the participation of all free adult male citizens over the age of twenty in public life helped them develop intellectually, as well as widening their cultural awareness and minds (Cartledge, 1993).

What Parts of This Aspect Have Changed and What Have Stayed the Same?

There are numerous similarities and differences between the Athenian democracy and Western society democracy. The aspects of the Athenian democracy which have remained the same today include the right of citizens to elect their leaders, the right of citizens to change their leaders, free and fair elections, and people holding elections regularly to elect their leaders (Cartledge, 1993). However, certain aspects of the Athenian democracy have changed, for instance, the inclusion of both male and female adults in voting in the modern Western society. This is in contrast to the Athenian democracy where only adult males were allowed to vote. Another aspect is the age issue; currently, citizens are allowed to vote from the age of eighteen years and above, as opposed to the ancient times when the age was twenty years and above. In addition, modern society is characterized by representative democracy unlike ancient Athens where there was direct democracy involving direct participation of all adult male citizens (Cartledge, 1993). Also, in ancient Greece, the functions of archons involved both priestly and political duties, but, in the modern Western society, politicians perform purely political functions.

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