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The history tells us that the first display of European democracy begins, arguably, not in Athens but in Sparta. It seems quite strange that the very first features of democratic society came into the world exactly from this city which defined itself as the direct opposite of the “ Open society “. But what really matter to us is Athens, where the earliest innovation of political equality was created, more thoroughly than in Sparta and where newer and more rapid social reforms had occurred. These reforms allowed the creation of a system of participatory democracy, which combined both a complexity of political structure with the principle of almost total amateurism at the same time.
Nevertheless, we can observe from some historical sources, that there are some possibilities that a democratic regime took its roots from the Phoenicians, which inhabited in Western Asia. Some facts indicate that the Phoenicians had something analogous to the self-regulating polis of ancient Athens. From the fact that the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and their methods of colonisation, it is reasonable to suggest that some of the Greeks’ political origins were also assimilated from the Phoenicians. However, a majority of political scientists concentrate their attention especially on the Spartans and Athenians in this area of the question and we perhaps should do so.
However, even if we still think that the Greeks were the originators of democracy we should consider why it was the Greeks and what the special qualities that enables them to approximate to this political model in the distant past? Why was democracy born in Greece and nowhere else? There is one interesting point, which shows that in some ancient societies the privileges belonged to some age groups. The basis of these societies had been often military as in the early Greek or Roman states. Tyranny was the stage of political development, which succeeded the hereditary aristocracies of early Greece. Tyranny took hold when some groups of individuals of young men claimed the privileges owing to their age. Even so, the idea spread that the age class could be transcended in some other ways. It was a move towards the more delicate viewpoint that privilege could be allotted between different groups of people without respect to age classes. Therefore, in some ancient societies, the prerogatives were given to other class groups such as aristocrats, priests, etc. In these types of society, there was not the slightest chance of democracy’s possible realisation. On the other hand, there is not also enough evidence that the age class was really crucial in ancient Athens.
The great new phenomenon of the eighth and seventh centuries was overseas colonisation. This process helped to distribute luxuries within the “ few “(that is say, the oligarchies) and therefore to widen the gaps in the economic and social statuses. The appearance of slavery as a new social class in ancient Athens is relevant to the history of democracy in two ways. First, creating of a slave class had raised the self-awareness of the citizen elite. Now, the slaves undertook hard physical labour that the Greeks used to undertake by themselves. Moreover, the former smallholders now were more in common with their previous masters rather than with the work force, which now replaced them. This important even allowed them to intensify their attitude towards citizenship and also a notion of equal distribution within the privilege groups. Secondly, when this privileged group began to own the slaves, it made active political and social life, and so eventually democracy, easier in the sense that the
citizen elite found more leisure time to spend on political discussions and office-holding. The increase in eligibility for such office holding was the first of the political reforms of Solon. The ancient Athenian state was an aristocracy before Solon: only the people from the well-known and well-born families could hold political offices. But Solon changed this rule and then the majority of the wealthy could hold such offices. Solon also introduced a Council of four hundred members. This Council was one of the first institutions in which the members could participate and choose the most appropriate laws and orders by themselves for their community. The details of Solon’s Council are not certain and all came from ancient sources, which were probably
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Ancient Greek law, Athenian democracy, Democracy, Greek people, Solon, Cleisthenes, Epic of Gilgamesh, Classical Athens, Polis, Demokratia, Metic
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