29 September 2013
What are the Unique Traits of Athenian Democracy?
There are several traits that make Athenian democracy unique not only in the ancient world but also in the modern world as well. For the first time in recorded history, citizens had a say in what laws were to govern them . Democracy was an unknown and alien concept in the ancient world, and Athenians knew that their political process was different in and they were intensely proud of it. “Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbours, but are an example to them” (funeral speech.37). The concept of the citizen, the allotment (lottery)system of choosing members of government administration and courts, and it’s form of direct (pure) democracy are all traits that set the Athenian political system apart.
The first unique trait of Athenian democracy was their concept of “the citizen”. Unlike our democracies in North America, all persons were not considered equal in Athens, and to be considered a citizen you had to meet several strict qualifications. First and foremost, you had to be a good person, someone who strived for excellence in all things and who served the polis (community)for the betterment of all (notes). The concept of “the good life” (arete) was the ultimate goal for the Athenian citizen and to achieve this you served the state above all things, even your own family. “There were no individual freedoms, there was no such thing as civil rights- you are not a part of the state if you didn’t participate” (notes). After a being good citizen, you also had to be; male, the son of legitimate citizens, and finally, you had to have completed your mandatory military training. Men under 18, women, slaves, Metics (resident aliens) and citizens who had their rights suspended were excluded from citizenship (notes). Of a population of around 250,000,only 30,000 were considered citizens (notes). Unfortunately, this created a...
Cited: Thucydides, History of The Peloponnesian Wars, Book 2 : Funeral Speech
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