Nationa Junior Honor Society

Topics: Athenian democracy, Ancient Greece, Classical Athens Pages: 6 (2055 words) Published: March 2, 2014


Ever wonder where and how democracy began? According to an article entitled “Athenian Government Prior to Democracy”; ancient Athens is credited with having developed one of the first democracies on this earth (1). Blackwell states that the name democracy comes from “demos-people and kratos-power”, meaning “power of the people” (2). Mills states that Athenian democracy did not come about easy, yet it was through the efforts of continuous reorganizations that democracy came to the Greeks and history says that the intent of these reorganizations was to allow for all citizens over 20 years of age to take part in governing the country (99). Early rulers of Athens did not seek to build such a democracy instead they sought to control everything that when on in the ancient city of Athens. The early rulers were kings or “basileus” (Ancient Athens 1). First Rulers of Athens – Monarchy

In early Athens kings were considered a necessity for the establishment of government as they acted as judges, chief priest and war generals at their age of power (Bardi 17). This sort of power known as Monarchy existed from around 9th century into the 8th centuries, a king also called a basileus ruled the city-state with a group of nobles under him (Ancient Athens 1). One of the first kings was Cecrops who according to legend was half man and half serpent (Mills 91). Cecrops is said to been the founder of Greek civilization and the city of Athens yet in spite of these accomplishments it is Theseus who is said to have been the greatest of all the early ancient kings of Athens (Mills 92). In Theseus’s age of power he slew the Minotaur and freed Athens from paying tribute to Minos, the sea king of Crete but his greatest known achievement was uniting all of Attica under the leadership of Athens (Mills 92). This was important because before this time “Attica had been independent but Theseus, with his power and knowledge was able to pull them together making them the people of one city and giving the entire state the name Athens” (Mills 92). He was considered a caring person helpful to those in need and a protector of the oppressed (Mills 93). The early kings were hereditary rulers that became less powerful over time yet retained the office of king for the duration of their lives. The goal of the Athenian people was to establish a form of leadership that enabled them to have more input and control while reducing the tenure of its leaders. This began with the elimination of “hereditary” leadership and brought about the change of requiring kings to be elected every ten years (Mills 94). One of the last and most significant changes during the Monarchy government was the elimination of the office of king thereby eliminating the ruling of one person with significant power (Mills. 94). This benefitted the Athenian people as during this period each king had a group of nobles who served under him and there riches grew which culminated in a powerful body called the “Areopagus”. Areopagus was the name of the hill that the nobles met on and it was from this group that the oligarchy would develop (Ancient Athens 1). Oligarchy: a government where a small group of people exercise control for corrupt and selfish purposes (Merriam- Webster: online dictionary). The Rule of the Few: The Oligarchy

The oligarchy was composed of men who came from and were elected by the Areopagus which by definition is the “highest judicial and legislative council of ancient Athens” (Connolly & Dodge 24). Areopagus was made up of nine archons or “rulers.” There were three key Archons; a chief representative of the State who gave his name to the year, the King-Archon who was the chief priest who had authority over all the sacrifices offered by the State, and the Polemarch or War-Archon, who was the chief general. The remaining six elected archons were to assist and see to it that...

Cited: Page
Unknown Author. “Athenian Government Prior To Democracy”/Ancient Athens

Connolly, Peter and Dodge Hazel. The Ancient City” Life in Classical Athens & Rome
Oxford New York: Oxford Publishing, 1998
Jathar, Rutuja "Democracy in Ancient Greece”
Mills, Dorothy “The Book of The Ancient Greeks” New York G.P. Putnam’s Sons
11th printing
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