Democracy

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Essential Question:

How did Ancient Greece democracy impact today's modern civilization?
Parthenon (Picture By:Roderick T. Long)

Summary of Research:

Athenian democracy has been responsible and has given authority to the political system in our Modern society. It has provided us with the basic essentials to establish a form of government that allows us to contribute to decisions. Due to this, Modern officials and representatives have incorporated on the idea foretold by Greek philosophers and have created a Federal Republic. Ancient and Modern times may differ but share similarities as well. We have taken Greek democracy to inspire, to change, and to fit into several civilizations extended until Modern times. The basic laws and rules that were in place back then are still in effect now; therefore, we have to thank the Greeks who have chosen to be against all odds in becoming a democratic nation.

Content:

Foundation of Modern Democracy (Aby The Liberal)

Athenian democracy was based on selection of officials by lot, assuming that all citizens were equally qualified for office, election was not practiced because it was thought to favor the wealthy and powerful. Male Athenian citizens participated in the democracy however voting was only a part. Speaking well and being physically present in the communal life were crucial. The Athenian assembly, which held 6000 citizens, decided most of the issues. Citizen-orators persuaded their fellow citizen-voters. The voting itself could be conducted by a show of hands, as is seen Aristophanes' comedy Ecclesiazousae, where Praxagora describes the voting in the Assembly.

The Golden Age Athenian democracy and our modern democracy had many similarities. Like our modern voting districts, the Athenian countryside was divided into units. In both these systems citizens had to be registered to vote on laws and public policies. Also, like our current democracy, in Athens you had to be 18-years-old to vote and like us, Athenian democracy had a Council of representatives to try to prevent corruption; they also had imposed limits on the number of terms leaders could govern.

One major difference is that in the Athenian legal system there were no lawyers. Everyone had to argue their own case. The accused could hire someone to write their defense speech, but they had to present it themselves. Wherein today lawyers are everywhere and generally the advice given is "A man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer." Another difference between the justice systems was that, unlike earlier Athenian justice and current democratic justice, the Golden Age democracy did not allow decisions to be appealed.

The elections back then were also different, unlike now; active military leaders were elected to governing positions because they believed it created a stronger government. In Athenian time, the method of elections was via lottery because they thought this would help to control campaigning and election corruptions so the officials used to chose the winner based on a visual estimate of the majority of hands. They certainly weren't counting exactly enough to make sure there were 6000 hands on 6000 discrete bodies respectively placed in urns. A lottery selected the 400 or 500 men for the third governmental group, called the boule. In today's democracy, when we elect someone all eligible citizens can vote and the majority wins.

One major and clearly recognizable difference is that in the Athenian democracy there was only a certain selected element of the population that was allowed to vote. This difference in voting behavior stems from the fact that the Athenian social and economic system was supportive of the suppression of groups of people according to gender and background in ways that are not acceptable in today's Western cultures.

In regards to the question of how ancient Greece democracy impact today's modern civilization, the answer is that the U.S. was not established as a pure democracy, but as a republic where voters elect representatives and electors. Therefore, whether there has ever been anything close to a pure and total democracy is still debatable.

Analysis:

There are various types of governments; democracy or “ruled by the people”, monarchy or “ruled by one person” and oligarchy/timocracy or “ruled by a few.” Democracy is believed to have begun when the first ever recorded civilization was established; Sumer – located in southern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) was believed to have some sort of democracy but it dates back so long ago that there is very few records or solid proof that they ever practiced the form of government. Even if the Sumerians did practice democracy, it did not last too long because of dictators, during time of war, would take over and eventually become a monarchy. Therefore, the first recorded use of democracy was used in Athens, Greece.

Democracy was the system of government implemented in Athens. This form of government was a way of having the peoples’ voices heard. Therefore, the people elected representatives who they thought were the most adequate to get their point across. The way the people elected their officials was through a process called Sortition. Sortition was believed to be the fairest way to decide which candidate would be elected. Picking colored pebbles from a bag was the most common way to do this. Elections were not permitted because officials thought that the wealthy and powerful could be favored. Draco, a man who wrote Athens first set of laws and constitution, would agree. The laws written by Draco were very simple, no matter how small or big the crime was, the penalty was always death. As time passed Draco's laws were changed by Solomon, his Successor. The rules were said to be too harsh for petty crimes and therefore new laws were written.

Although the male gender was the only one allowed to run for a position in government, it was not the only thing needed to win representation. Being well known, coming from a good background and having the ability to convince the people were key qualities that every candidate needed. The six thousand citizen members of the Athenian assembly decided common issues that were present during that time and the candidates would deliberate about them. When it was time to vote, a show of hands would determine the winner. It was really an estimate made by the officials because they didn’t have a way to keep track with so many officials. Once elected, officials would meet for about one hundred seventy days out of the year to talk about current policies and laws.

Modern and Athenian democracy had differences and similarities. Like our current day system, the Athenian voter had to be eighteen years of age and needed to be registered in their unit; Units is what the countryside was divided into. There was also a limit on how many terms a leader could serve. Unlike today, not all Athenian citizens could vote however they could be accused of a crime in which the defendant had to stand up in front of the jury and present their case by themselves. There were no lawyers to help or tell them what to do. Also, all decisions by the jury were final, meaning an appeal was never honored by the court system.

Conclusion:

Democracy has been one of the biggest and great contributions to us; along with the philosophers, theatre, etc. It has most definitely changed today's world and made it a better democratic world than it used to be. The age to vote is the same ever since the ancient time, which is eighteen. They did not have lawyers, which made it difficult to battle your problems because you were the only person to stand up for what you believed in; Thus, Greece was the first country to use democracy, in order to change the system to be debatable and optional.

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