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Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece

Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece

Kurt A. Raaflaub
Josiah Ober
Robert W. Wallace
Paul Cartledge
Cynthia Farrar
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 253
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  • Book Info
    Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece
    Book Description:

    This book presents a state-of-the-art debate about the origins of Athenian democracy by five eminent scholars. The result is a stimulating, critical exploration and interpretation of the extant evidence on this intriguing and important topic. The authors address such questions as: Why was democracy first realized in ancient Greece? Was democracy “invented” or did it evolve over a long period of time? What were the conditions for democracy, the social and political foundations that made this development possible? And what factors turned the possibility of democracy into necessity and reality? The authors first examine the conditions in early Greek society that encouraged equality and “people’s power.” They then scrutinize, in their social and political contexts, three crucial points in the evolution of democracy: the reforms connected with the names of Solon, Cleisthenes, and Ephialtes in the early and late sixth and mid-fifth century. Finally, an ancient historian and a political scientist review the arguments presented in the previous chapters and add their own perspectives, asking what lessons we can draw today from the ancient democratic experience. Designed for a general readership as well as students and scholars, the book intends to provoke discussion by presenting side by side the evidence and arguments that support various explanations of the origins of democracy, thus enabling readers to join in the debate and draw their own conclusions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93217-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)
    Kurt A. Raaflaub

    Over the past thirty years or so, work on Athenian democracy has intensiWed and yielded most impressive results. The development and functioning of democratic institutions and of the democratic system as a whole, as well as individual aspects, such as the roles of the elite, leaders, and the masses, and democratic terminology, have been analyzed and reconstructed in detail. The sources relevant to the study of democracy have received new editions and valuable commentaries. Democracy’s relation to its opponents, on the individual and collective, political and intellectual levels, its impact on religion, law, warfare, ideology, and culture, and the reactions...

  7. Chapter 2 “People’s Power” and Egalitarian Trends in Archaic Greece
    (pp. 22-48)
    Kurt A. Raaflaub and Robert W. Wallace

    Democracy is constituted through institutions, practices, mentalities, and, eventually, ideologies. In Greece these different components of democracy reached their fullest development in the fifth and fourth centuries. If democracy means that all citizens, the entire demos, determine policies and exercise control through assembly, council, and courts, and that political leaders, attempting to shape public opinion, are subordinate to the demos, the first democracy that we can identify with certainty was that of Athens from the 460s, emerging as a result of historically specific and even contingent factors (see chapter 5 below). At the same time, the contributors to this volume...

  8. Chapter 3 Revolutions and a New Order in Solonian Athens and Archaic Greece
    (pp. 49-82)
    Robert W. Wallace

    This chapter discusses the history of political and legal reform, mass revolution, and the reports of various people’s governments in Greece during the archaic period. Its greater focus on Athens is dictated by the state of our evidence, meager in any case but more extensive for that city, and by Athens’ importance in the history of democracy. At the same time, many scattered references in Aristotle’sPoliticsmake clear that if we possessed the 157 otherConstitutionsreconstructed in his school in addition to theConstitution of the Athenians, Athens’ revolutions and early experiments with people’s power would join a...

  9. Chapter 4 “I Besieged That Man”: Democracy’s Revolutionary Start
    (pp. 83-104)
    Josiah Ober

    In searching for the “origins of Athenian democracy” I have avoided the individualist, institutionalist, and foundationalist premises undergirding much historical work on Athenian political history.¹ My approach to the history of Athenian democracy cares relatively little for the motivations of Cleisthenes or (e.g.) Solon, Ephialtes, Pericles, or Demosthenes, since I do not think that democracy was “discovered” or “invented” by an individual. Rather I suppose that these (and other) highly talented individuals responded creatively to what they correctly perceived as substantial changes in the Athenian political environment, and that these changes were the direct result of collective action. The responses...

  10. Chapter 5 The Breakthrough of Dēmokratia in Mid-Fifth-Century Athens
    (pp. 105-154)
    Kurt A. Raaflaub

    In the years around 462 b.c.e., Athens was rocked by political turmoil. Members of the venerable Areopagus council were brought to trial, as was Cimon, after Aristides architect of the Athenian empire and long-dominant general and leader. Some politicians, led by Ephialtes, persuaded the assembly to pass measures, often called the reforms of Ephialtes, that shifted certain powers from the Areopagus to institutions perceived as more representative of the demos. Many Athenians did not welcome these innovations. Tensions escalated. Within a short time, both Cimon and Ephialtes disappeared from the political scene. For several years, Athens was deeply divided and...

  11. Chapter 6 Democracy, Origins of: Contribution to a Debate
    (pp. 155-169)
    Paul Cartledge

    “The study of the Athenian political order is today one of the most exciting and active areas of ancient Greek history.” So wrote Josh Ober fifteen years ago, reviewing Raphael Sealey’s typically revisionist and iconoclasticAthenian Republic: Democracy or the Rule of Law?¹ In 1994 Lisa Kallet (-Marx), reviewing a number of the many works prompted by the notional 2,500th anniversary of the reforms at Athens credited (or debited) to Cleisthenes, rightly predicted: “The renewed interest in the subject will not wither soon” (1994a: 335). A decade further on, following the flawed U.S. presidential election of 2000 and the...

  12. Chapter 7 Power to the People
    (pp. 170-196)
    Cynthia Farrar

    Why think that the “first democracy” has anything to tell us about our own? That was then and this is now; surely modern democracy has diverged from its ancient counterpart, and deliberately and rightly so?¹ As it happens, however, among people who spend their time pondering such matters, dissatisfaction with modern democracy quite often takes the form of what one wit has dubbed “polis envy.”² We admire what we think the Athenians had, we want it, we fear it, we suspect it is unattainable, we are determined to do without it. We eventually come to the conclusion that the most...

    (pp. 197-224)
    (pp. 225-232)
    (pp. 233-242)