How did the Greeks contribute to democracy?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Greeks, and particularly the Athenians, were one of the first peoples to form democracies.  Thus, their contribution to democracy is that they helped to pioneer democracy and then passed it down to the Romans and, eventually, to European countries.

By the time of Pericles (mid to late 400s BC), Athens had become quite democratic.  All male citizens over the age of 18 were given a voice in the government of the polis.  The people had a great deal of control over those who were elected to govern them.  This was a fairly strongly democratic system.

The Greek democracy helped to influence the Roman republic.  Both of these types of government eventually influenced thinkers in Europe who pushed their own countries (and offshoots such as the United States) towards democracy.

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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The Greeks contributed to democracy primarily through being the foundation of Western Civilization democracy. It all started in Greece and mainly in the city of Athens. Cleisthenes, who was a statesman, is considered as the founder of democracy in Athens. Cleisthenes introduced insightful reforms. These reforms caused democracy to exist as a system of government for the first time worldwide. In fact, the word “democracy” comes from two Greek words. These are demos = people, and kratein = to rule.

Democracy in Athens consisted of the Assembly (ekklesia); the Council of Five Hundred (boule), and the Popular Courts (dikasteria). As noted in the above answer, Greece’s democratic experiment eventually spread to other city-states in the country as well as into parts of Europe.

Cleisthenes introduced his form of democracy to Greece in 507 B.C. The heart of democracy in Athens was to enable all citizens over the age of 20 to have a hand in the governing of the nation.

A focus of the thinking pertaining to democracy in Greece was what Herodotus, a Greek historian, said, “In a democracy there is, first, that most splendid of virtues, equality before the law.”

Source: Ancient Greek Democracy: Demokratia and the Demos

It came to be that most democracies selected a group of men who would do the most vital voting. This was because it was difficult for ordinary systems to always get away to meetings as they worked in agriculture or the trades or were soldiers and couldn’t always be expected to attend democratic meetings to decide and vote on issues. However, when it came to very weighty votes, these men typically attended. In Athens, this was accomplished through the above-mentioned Council of Five Hundred.

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Greeks contributed to democracy in several ways. The year 507 B.C. was an important year for the beginning of democracy in ancient Greece. A leader of Athens named Cleisthenes made a series of changes that was known as the rule of the people. There were three important parts to these changes made by Cleisthenes. There was a group that wrote laws and determined foreign policy. There was a group that had representatives from the ten tribes of Athens. There also was a court system where cases were tried, and jurors decided the cases.

It should be noted that not all people were allowed to make the laws. Only male citizens who were at least 18 years old were allowed to take part in the democracy that was established. Thus, about 40,000 men took part in this process. Rarely did all 40,000 men participate in each session of the government. Most were usually serving in the military. Others had to work and couldn’t attend each session. Usually, about 5,000 male citizens attended a session of government. There were about 40 sessions a year of this group that was known as the Ekklesia.

In the group that had representatives from the ten tribes of Athens, called the Boule, about 500 men served. This group was responsible for making sure the government ran smoothly. This included monitoring government workers and making sure the military had enough equipment and supplies. This group also determined what issues would be discussed in the Ekklesia.

The court system, called the Diakasteria, had 500 jurors who were chosen randomly if they were a male citizen and at least 30 years old. This group listened to cases, made decisions, and determined punishments.

The Greeks contributed several things to the concept of democracy.

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