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Describe the growth of democracy in Athens. (I need help answering my essay question)

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clarisia | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:21 AM via web

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Describe the growth of democracy in Athens.

(I need help answering my essay question)

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hermy27 | Student, College Senior | Salutatorian

Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:58 AM (Answer #1)

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The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. Led by Cleisthenes, Athenians established what is generally held as the first democracy in 508-507 BCE. Cleisthenes is referred to as "the father of Athenian democracy."

Athenian democracy took the form of a direct democracy, and it had two distinguishing features: the random selection of ordinary citizens to fill the few existing government administrative and judicial offices, and a legislative assembly consisting of all Athenian citizens. All eligible citizens were all to speak and vote in the assembly, which set the laws of the city state. 

It is said that certain citizens were unable to vote, such as women and slaves.  The exclusion of large parts of the population from the citizen body is closely related to the ancient understanding of citizenship. In most of antiquity the benefit of citizenship was tied to the obligation to fight war campaigns.

Athenian democracy was not only direct in the sense that decisions were made by the assembled people, but also the most direct in the sense that the people through the assembly, boule and courts of law controlled the entire political process and a large proportion of citizens were involved constantly in the public business.  Even though the rights of the individual were not secured by the Athenian constitution in the modern sense (the ancient Greeks had no word for "rights"), the Athenians enjoyed their liberties not in opposition to the government but by living in a city that was not subject to another power and by not being subjects themselves to the rule of another person.

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