Democracy in Ancient Greece

Eddie Witten
February 11, 1997
Essay II
Prof. Hiltz

The Greeks were very advanced for their time. They realized that they need a new form of government and they were able to invent the first democratic government in the world. The democracy that the Greeks came up with was based on two important factors. The first one was the population growth in Athens grew at a very fast rate. The second was the advocating of political, economic, and legal equality for all which some male citizens remembered from the living conditions in the Dark Ages. The Greek system of Democracy did have its shares of problems though.
The Greek system of democracy was ruled by a body of nine elected officials whom were called archons. These men who were aristocrats lead the government and had supreme control over all of the verdicts and criminal accusations in Athens. Problems arose when aristocrats become jealous of one another and rivalries ensued under the early stages of Athenian democracy. The result of this jealousy was the establishment of a code written by the appointed ruler Draco. This code of laws promoted stability and equity. These laws however did more to hurt the democracy of Athens than to help it. It seems that Draco wrote this code of laws in order to benefit himself rather than to benefit the government of Athens.
The democracy of Athens was used in many ways other than for what it was designed for. It was abused by many rulers of that time. They were concerned with their own personal growth and because of their greed and selfishness, they made laws and codes that would benefit their own personal gain. The results though have not always been as what they had expected to have been. Many of the lower classes were treated very unfairly and rulers lost popularity to the lower classes. Civil war was even about to break out at one point due to Draco’s codes and laws.
When civil war almost broke out in Athens the codes and laws were once again revamped. This time a pathway was attempted to be laid down that would accommodate both the upper and the lower classes. In the end four classes were developed to rank the male citizens of Athens based on their income. The five-hundred-measure men, horsemen, yoked men, and laborers were the four classes that were devised by this new system of codes and laws.
In the Athenian society both the theories failed the men, and in turn the men failed the theories. Some of the theories that the rulers came up with needed a lot of support from the male citizens of Athens. Most of the time these theories were considered unfair and the male citizens were not cooperative with these theories. Also theories that were fair to the citizen but not recognized by them failed. The men failed the theories in this sense, since they did not give them a shot and try them out. They would have seen that these would have helped them in the long run.
Considering the outcome of the Peloponnesian War the Athenians fell victim to internal restraints. Their own problems within their democratic structure caused them to lose that war. The codes and laws that they had at the time wound up doing more damage to them in the long run then it did to help them. That was the major problem with the Athenians view on democracy. Since they developed democracy they were not able to perfect it and watch other societies function under it. If they had a few hundred more years to perfect their democratic society they most likely would have had much more success in the Peloponnesian War and with all of their endeavors.

Category: Roman Culture