Was Athenian democracy truly democratic?
This extra credit opportunity is worth 2 points of extra credit PER question on your Unit 1 Test on February 10.
In the 6th century BCE, Athens was the site of ongoing fighting between the rich Athenians, who controlled the government, and poor Athenians, who were farmers and merchants. In 508 BCE, a wealthy Athenian named Cleisthenes rose to power in the city-state. The following year, he introduced a system known as democracy.
A democracy is a form of government where political power comes from citizens. The word comes from the Greek demokratia. Demo means “the people,” and kratia means “power” or “rule.” Athenian democracy was a direct democracy. This means that citizens were allowed to vote directly on laws and government actions. This is different from a representative democracy, in which citizens elect officials to vote on laws. The Athenian democratic government was divided into three branches: the Ekklesia, the Boule, and the Dikasteria.
The Ekklesia was Athens’s main governing body and made the most important decisions, including voting on laws, deciding whether to go to war, and determining foreign policy. Any Athenian citizen could attend and vote in the Ekklesia, which met 40 times per year. Decisions required a simple majority to pass.
The Boule was a council made up of 500 men (50 from each of the 10 Athenian tribes). These men were chosen by lottery and served one year terms. The Boule made decisions about day-to-day government and decided what issues should go in front of the Ekklesia.
The Dikasteria, or court, was made up of 500 men over 30 years old, who were chosen by lottery. They decided legal cases by majority rule. There were no official police or lawyers. Athenian citizens served in these roles instead.
Central Historical Question: Was ancient Athens truly democratic?
Directions: Using the following document below and your previous knowledge of Athenian Democracy, answer the prompt at the bottom of this post.
The Athenian Constitution (Modified)
The following excerpt comes from “The Athenian Constitution,” written by the Greek philosopher Aristotle between 330 and 322 BCE. Aristotle was the leading Greek philosopher of the time, and is credited with writing accounts of the constitutions of 170 different Greek states.
At the time that we are speaking, the people have secured their control of the state and established the constitution which exists at the present day. The democracy has made itself master of everything and administers everything by its votes in the Assembly and by the law-courts.
The present state of the constitution is as follows. The franchise is open to all men who are of citizen birth by both parents. They are enrolled as citizens at the age of eighteen. On the occasion of their enrollment, the current citizens give their votes first on whether the new candidates appear to be of the age set by the law. If the candidates are not of the right age, they are dismissed back into the ranks of the boys. Secondly, the current citizens give their votes on whether the candidate is free born, and has two citizen parents as the laws require. If they decide that he is not a free man, he can appeal to the law-courts. If the court decides that he has no right to be enrolled as a citizen, he is sold by Athens as a slave. If he wins his case, he has the right to be enrolled as a citizen without further question.
All the magistrates that are responsible for the ordinary routine of administration are elected by lot in the Assembly. However, the Military Treasurer, the Commissioners of the Festival Fund, and the Superintendent of the Water Supply are elected by vote. All military officers are also elected by vote.
Source: Aristotle, “The Athenian Constitution,” 330-322 BCE.
franchise: right to vote and participate in government
free born: not born to a parent who is a slave
magistrates: government officials lot: random lottery
lot: random lottery
DUE BY FEBRUARY 10 BY MIDNIGHT
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