Democracy

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subject

INTRODUCTION TO

THE HISTORY OF CYPRUS

title

DEMOCRACY:

THEORY AND PRACTICE

by

FANNI ZSOFIA DAVID

program of study

GRAPHIC AND ADVERTISING DESIGN

Introduction

The meaning and

development of democracy

According to a the contemporary definition democracy today is: “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives; Rule by the majority” (“Democracy” Def.1,4). The term democracy descends from the Greek word δημοκρατία meaning "rule of the people", and which was coined from δῆμος, "people" and κράτος, "power", in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC. Pericles, the most notable leader of democratic Athens during the Golden Age, defines the notion as: government from, by, for the people, the so called demos.

The idea of democracy, as a form of government, was in fact an extremely radical one when it manifested, since many governments in the early history of the world were totalitarian or tyrannical in nature based no the assumption that the strong has ultimate right to rule over the weak.

The birth of the idea – as the origins of the word suggests - can be credited to the Greeks of the 6th century BC, who viewed dictatorship as the worst possible form of government. Democracy emerged through the bloody wars between the oligarchs and the democrats. ( "An oligarchy is said to be that in which the few and the wealthy, and a democracy that in which the many and the poor are the rulers," as Aristotle put it in his “Politics”. ) The Greek system of government was perhaps closer to a true (direct) democracy than any other in history, due to its practically low population: as the civilization of ancient Greece was broken down into small, independent city-states that consisted of never more than 10,000 citizens, it meant no difficulty to give all the men the right to participate in public life and vote on any issue of government. The Constitution of Kleisthenes enacted that all free people has the right to discuss and vote (isigoria). There were no representatives in the Greek system of government; the people ruled themselves directly, what is more, each man was a compulsory, lifelong member of the decision making body. Those, who refused to take part in the public sphere – of which central place was the agora (market), the place for dialog- was condemned to be useless and foolish. This was almost a total democracy except for the fact that women and slaves that came out at over 50% of the population, were not considered as citizens, consequently were not allowed to vote. In spite of this, no other civilization has got as close to democracy as its inventors, the Greeks, and many later civilizations have incorporated this Greek idea as part of the foundation for their government.

First the Roman Empire (509-27 BC) followed the example of Greek democracy taking some of their governmental ideals. Roman democracy was like that of Greece only to some extent, since instead of being direct it was a representative one, where the representatives from the nobility constituted the members of the Senate, and representatives from the commoners made up the Assembly. This way the governmental power was divided between into two branches and only the representatives of those two institutes had the right to vote on governmental issues. Numerous Roman political philosophers were proponent of democracy, such as Cicero, who suggested that all people have certain rights that should be preserved. He and other political thinkers of the time argued that political power should come from the people. As we will see from the discussions over philosophical thinking of democracy in the following chapter, the most influential personalities of Greek philosophy were on...
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