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The Origins of Democracy

Democracy is defined as a government by the people. Many people often only think of the United States of America when they think of democracy. Others think democracy only refers to voting or politics. Democracy however is more than just an American term or idea. Democracy has changed countries, and history effecting countless numbers of people across the world.

Democracy in earliest form can be traced all the back to Ancient Greece around 500 B.C. The Greeks built small city-states, which were political units made up of a city and the surrounding lands. The Greeks evolved different forms of government for these city-states as power shifted from a king or queen (monarchy) to land owning nobles to wealthy aristocrats dominating some city-states. The three major contributors to the development of democracy in Greece are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates, through his philosophies on ethics and politics taught and inspired Plato, who then taught and inspired Aristotle. Socrates believed that the duties of an individual included submitting to the laws of the state. Plato believed the state should regulate every aspect of citizens’ lives in order to provide for their best interest. Aristotle favored a constitutional government ruled by members of the middle class.

During the Roman Empire a new government was created in which the people chose the officials. This was called a republic, which means thing of the people. The Romans set up this type of government to keep any single person from gaining too much power. A republic is made up of senators who were responsible for making laws and consults who were responsible for government business and commanding armies. Roman citizens’ soon demanded that laws be written down then they began to demand for more input in the laws that were being made. The English influence on democracy was the Magna Carta, which gave certain rights to nobles, which eventually was extended to all...
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