Ancient Greek History

About the Athenian Revolution

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The uprising in Athens, which started around 508-507 B.C., marked the beginning of a new era in the city’s history. It was a response to the rising trend of tyranny in Greece. The uprising gave rise to a new form of democracy, which allowed all citizens to participate. It was called the Athenian Revolution. Here’s more information about it:

Background of Athenian Revolution

According to legend, the city of Athens used to be ruled by kings. During this period, it was able to bring the other regions of Attica under its rule. This resulted in the creation of the largest and wealthiest state in Greece. However, it also led to a larger class of people being excluded from political life.

It’s believed that the kings were the head of an aristocracy known as the Eupatridae, and they were responsible for forming a council that was known as the Archons. In Athens, the council of archons was able to exert its power through an executive government. Archons were the chief magistrates in various Greek cities.

During the 7th Century B.C., the agrarian crisis and the land issue in Athens led to widespread social unrest. In Megara, Theagenes was able to take power and become an enemy of the local oligarchs. During this period, many Greek city-states experienced the emergence of monarchs who were opportunistically chosen to lead their respective states.

Reforms in Athenian Political System

In 594 BCE, Archon Solon issued reforms that provided the citizens of Athens with a political function. These reforms allowed people who owned property in the city to participate in political life. By granting the former aristocrats the opportunity to participate in political life, Solon significantly changed the social framework of the city.

The reforms provided the citizens of Athens with a political function. They were able to set the agenda and run the city’s daily affairs through a council known as the Boule. The Areopagus, which previously took on this role, continued to serve as the “guardianship of the laws.” Another important aspect of democracy was the establishment of an ecclesia, which was open to all males.

The former aristocrats were allowed to return to Athens during the reign of Archon Solon. His moderate reforms, which helped the poor but kept the aristocracy in power, provided the city with some stability. For the next few years, democracy continued to govern the city without an Archon.

Details of the Revolution

After the monarch was removed, the Spartan king appointed Isagoras as the leader of an oligarchy, which was made up of individuals who were loyal to Sparta. He was opposed by the majority of Athens’ residents, especially the lower and middle classes. The members of the Alcmaeonidae clan, who were pro-democracy, were expelled from the city.

Isagoras tried to seize the homes of the people who were allegedly cursed by the miasma of the Alcmaeonidae clan. He also wanted to dissolve the Boule, but the council refused to cooperate. The people of Athens then revolted against the oligarchy.

During this period, the regular citizens of Athens forced Isagoras and his companions to flee to the Acropolis. On the third day of the uprising, the people of Athens agreed to a truce, which led to the executions of hundreds of Isagoras’ supporters. Cleisthenes was then recalled and elected as the first Archon of the city.

Counter-Revolution and Democracy

In 462 BCE, the pro-democracy movement began attacking the Areopagus, which was composed of former archons. According to Aristotle, the city had been under an informal constitution that was led by Cimon. The Areopagite constitution had been in place around 480 BCE.

The Areopagus lost its prestige due to the selection of Archons by lot in 486 BCE. After prosecutors started investigating some of its members for maladministration, the popular assembly passed several reforms that severely affected the powers of the Areopagus. These reforms divided the Areopagus’ various powers into the Boule, the Ecclesia, and the popular courts.

Following the defeat of the Sicilian expedition in 413 BC, a group of aristocrats tried to limit democracy in Athens. They then established an oligarchy, which was part of the Athenian coup d’etat. The group’s efforts were first carried out through various constitutional channels.

The oligarchy lasted only a couple of months before it was replaced by a more democratic government. In 404 BCE, Athens was taken over by the ThirtyTyrans, who were loyal to Sparta. After a year, pro-democracy groups took back control of the city. Eventually, the Macedonian army led by Phillip II captured Athens in 338 BCE. This is when democracy was developed.


Wikipedia – Athenian Revolution

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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