Ancient Greek History

Do You Know that the Greeks Invented Democracy?

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The principal of democracy is something that we often take for granted. Webster’s Dictionary defines democracy as, “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” While this may seem like a straightforward concept, there was a time that this wasn’t the case. Did you know that the Ancient Greeks, particularly the Ancient Athenians, originally developed this concept in response to an oppressive oligarchy? Here’s more information about how it came to be:

It All Started With a Man Named Cleisthenes

The development of democracy can be traced to 508 B.C., which is marked as the beginning of a revolutions in Athens. At this time, Athens had an oppressive system of government referred to as an oligarchy, where only the elite, noble-born individuals were charged with ruling over the population of Athens as a whole. On this day, the people of Athens had decided they had enough. They experienced centuries of oppression, and they knew that something needed to be done to change it.

Cleisthenes, a nobleman from Athens who had been taught to rule the people, ultimately took the side of the revolutionaries. He looked at the people revolting in the streets and he knew that things needed to change. Ultimately, what began as a topic that intrigued him turned into something groundbreaking.He knew that the every day people should have the chance to govern themselves. From this line of thinking, democracy was born.

Cleisthenes Had Developed a True Democracy

The word democracy comes from an Ancient Greek word, dimokritia, which means “people power.” We understand it as a term that indicates that the people were entrusted with making decisions that concern them rather than entrusting this to a select few. In Ancient Athens, every single decision that needed to be made was entrusted to the voting public, which even included the laws themselves. To pass laws, the elected politicians would make speeches to try to get the Athenian citizens to vote in favor of them. This is referred to as a true democracy. In other, modern forms of democracy, the people elect the politicians who are then entrusted to make the decisions.

Only Citizens of Athens Could Vote

Although the Athenian democracy was looked at as a true, or pure democracy, there were stringent rules as to what made up a citizen. In reality, the rules were so strict that only a small percentage of people who lived in Athens could actually vote. Women, men who didn’t own land, slaves, and those living in Athens who were born in other parts of Greece were unable to make their voices heard. This was limiting and overall, Athens was only a democracy for a short period of time.

Today, the system that was developed in Ancient Greece has been adapted and changed, but the main idea is still the same. The Greeks truly are the ones who invented this system of government.


Greeks Invented Democracy

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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