What Features of Modern Europe Have Been Traced Back to Ancient Greece and Rome, and Are Such Comparisons Justified?
Many features of Ancient Greece and Rome could be said, in one way or another, to still be present in modern day Europe, although perhaps in a fashion entirely unrecognisable to the populaces of these antediluvian territories. To a modern-day European layperson, or one of the demos1, original Greek and Roman ideals might vary from politics and the legal structure that comprises what we think of democracy; to the Olympic Games; to geographical institutions such as architecture, landmarks, roads and sewage systems; to the very language we speak. Two of the most important foundations bequeathed us are democracy and our language. Democracy, as we know it, is defined as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them; the common people; a state of society characterised by recognition of equality of rights and privileges for all people; political, social or legal equality.” (Chambers Dictionary, 1993, p.448). Many historians believe that traces of democratic practices were apparent as early as 621 BC; at this time, Draco, the Athenian lawgiver, created the first recorded written law, instructing any person found guilty of homicide to be exiled (Raaflub et al, 2007). Draco was the first recorded lawgiver, and was chosen by an apparent democratic vote. However, this first law, and subsequent written laws were still under the leadership, or tyranny, of one man, and appear to have favoured the aristocracy. A generation later, Solon, the lawgiver at the time, renounced the majority of Draco’s laws, and issued directives that were, in his eyes, fairer to both higher and lower classes. During the course of his time as lawgiver in Athens, Solon revolutionised the way the state was run, resulting in the first legitimate government of Athens2. Institutions...
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