When did people begin talking about human rights?

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valtaylor | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Athens is remembered as the first democratic society. Many of the ancient city-state’s early philosophers also popularized groundbreaking perspectives on human rights, although to modern society, their ideas still appear quite primitive.

Draco was an Athenian politician whose early law code was extremely harsh. Death was the most popular punishment he prescribed for even seemingly insignificant crimes. However, we credit him as the creator of the first written law code in Greece. This was significant for all Athenians, but especially for the poor but a written law code could not be altered for the benefit of the rich. Unlike other societies in the ancient world, Athens recognized the idea of freedom. In contrast, the Greeks granted the right to vote to all its citizen men, of every social class.

Aristotle taught his students that Greeks were not to be enslaved by other Greeks because they were born to be free men, unlike the barbarian who depended on the Greeks to enslave them because they were inferior to their masters. Although we know better now, Aristotle and his contemporaries were exploring the concept of human rights without the benefit of any other society who believed in the humane treatment of all men and women.

Source: Charles Freeman, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. 174.

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