Posted at 10.02.2018
The question here's not whether Athens was a democracy but from what extent is was democratic. Why don't we imagine that there exists a gradient by which to measure examples of democracy- it is not categorical. If we quickly compare that which you today understand as democratic (e. g. contemporary parliamentary democracy) and its own old Athenian counterpart, we will notice strong similarities: all people may vote and all votes hold the same weight; leaders and members of Parliament/Set up can be ousted by popular vote; all people have a legal right 'to hold office or even to sit down in Parliament' if elected; flexibility of speech and of opinion; members receive repayment. This brief evaluation already compels us to suggest that Athens was democratic. This essay seeks to evaluate the full scope of democracy in Periclean Athens by learning its restrictive citizen-body, its corporations predicated on the immediate, democratic participation of citizens and its political ideology founded on the ideals of equality and liberty.
It is natural for us to assume a political contemporary society must include all those living within its physical restrictions. However, in Athens, the exercise of political power was limited by residents only, with complete disregard for ladies, metics and slaves. There is no right to citizenship, it was a subject of being delivered involved with it. Citizenship was highly restricted ; political rights and privileges only put on free adult man Athenians. Women experienced no political protection under the law and their civic rights were limited. For the reason that sense, it was a 'democracy of the patriarchs'. The perpetual marginalisation of metics and slaves supposed that equality only applied to those of equivalent status. Equality was solely a political strategy which didn't stretch to the sociable or financial realms.
It is a common enough held idea that Athenian democracy was only made possible by slave labour. In fact, it can be an obvious argument up against the declare that Athens was democratic. Field contends that this '[. . . ]is entirely untrue. Generally, [. . . ] nearly all citizens caused their hands and a great number of of them did not own slaves at all'. However, most poleis were financially reliant on slave labour. Without slaves, there simply wouldn't normally have been enough manpower to carry out the required work of development. Little insight will come from hastily discrediting democracy on these grounds. It is important that people situate ourselves in the historical context in order to judge the true amount of democracy in Periclean Athens.
A determination to the principle of equality is obvious in the main bodies of Athenian governance. The Set up, the primary sovereign body, was made up of at the least 6 000 people and satisfied at least forty times each year. Every citizen had the right to speak, isegoria, and the right to vote in the process of producing and determining open public coverage. The courts were made up of large juries drawn by whole lot from the entire citizenry. Equality before the law supposed that juries were respected to judge all men evenly and impartially, which denotes an adherence to the guideline of legislations and anticipated process. The Council of 500, responsible for setting the plan of the Set up, was chosen by whole lot out of every deme of Attica. The planks of magistrates, responsible for everyday administrative duties, were also chosen by great deal. Selection by great deal was employed to give every citizen the same opportunity irrespective of wealth, position 'or even popularity or eloquence'. Additionally, this unique political equality was tied within strong personal accountability. Before taking on office, a magistrate was at the mercy of a formal review of which point he could be produced ineligible. Furthermore, a magistrate could be ousted and even penalized after review of his performance by a vote of the Assembly which was taken at least ten times per year. After his yr in office the magistrate was at the mercy of a searching scrutiny where his accounts were thoroughly reviewed and any citizen 'could charge him with inefficiency or abuse of power'. In an attempt to quell the 'temptations of irresponsible ability', the above measures were purely adhered to. In addition, short conditions in office, annual session to any office, and 'constraints on the possibility of being preferred more than once' meant that there was a reliable rotation of residents and that it was near impossible to build up personal political ability. This illustrates a number of important features of Athenian democracy: direct involvement in the decision-making process, the equivalent opportunity to hold office, the equal right to contribute as well freedom of conversation, which allowed for critical dialogue, effective argument and opposition when necessary.
With respect to the positions in high political offices, such as generals or admirals in charge of the military and fleet or primary financial magistrates, the Athenians were not so committed to the egalitarian concept. These positions were elected by people, 'a procedure that could be thought to be aristocratic' somewhat than democratic. However, politics equality was further backed by the fact that the 6 000 jurors, the Council of 500 and everything magistrates were all paid albeit at different rates. In theory this meant that poverty had not been an impediment to the exercise of politics rights. The truth is the poor most likely preferred more gainful work and the assemblies and juries were preponderantly middle-class citizens. Furthermore, the wealthy dominated the greater important elective offices. It is important to notice that political contribution was a choice and that the right to participate was stringently upheld. Yet the idea remains that politics equality between your average resident was allowed both by whole lot and by repayment.
Laws were relatively everlasting in nature and followed a complicated proceeding, which ultimately concluded with a vote put to the Set up. The ' propensity to do something by decrees instead of by fixed regulations [has been looked at] as an indicator of degeneration in a democracy' as each particular case brought before the Assembly demanded a particular interpretation of regulations. The Set up dealt generally with executive decisions such as declarations of conflict and foreign plan. The supervision of justice was entrusted to the top juries picked by lot creating a 'microcosm of the whole people'. This demonstrates that in all aspects of governance - legislative, executive and judiciary - the resident had an active and involved role. The citizen got a unmediated say in decisions affecting him, which really is a defining characteristic of direct democracy; those subject to the rules made a decision the rules.
As previously mentioned, the Athenian citizen-body was very restricted. It had been 'equality', not in conditions natural equality, however in terms of opportunity and political rights that have been limited to residents regardless of everything else but potential. Liberty, like equality, designed different things in the private and general public spheres (see footnote). Hansen distinguishes between liberty as a 'negative ideal', such as liberty from political oppression and a 'positive ideal', such as liberty to participate in or abstain from politics. The assertion that each individual is absolve to choose is undermined by the next notion articulated by Pericles: ' we do not say a man who can take no fascination with politics is a guy who minds his own business; we say that he does not have any business here at all'. This implies that in the private sphere, man has the to do as he pleases however in the public sphere, in the role of citizen, there are specific requirements he is likely to fulfil. As Hansen says, 'a positive politics flexibility is contrasted with a negative individual freedom'. However, politics affairs required such determination that private life was subordinate '. . . to general public affairs and the common good'. The merit of an individual was measured by his civic virtue. Intense solidarity, unity and devotion were prerequisites for the process of radical self-government.
We have focused our analysis on the politics sphere excluding women, metics and slaves; the concept of demos is restricted to the individuals. The ideals of liberty and equality, important to any democratic ideology, only apply within these confines in Periclean Athens. Knowing that, it is clear that Athens was ruled by a primary form of democracy which relied on an active and engaged citizen-body. The institutional framework not only reassured that citizens were consulted on things impacting them on every level of the politics decision-making process, but also relied on it. Equality of opportunity meant that any citizen who thought we would participate in the public life had the right to participate. However, each man was free to chose if to defend myself against this role. Direct participation was not only a kind of governance but also a means of life, equating individual and civic virtue. Today, we would have a much broader and more inclusive notion of demos but this does not change the fact that Periclean Athens was democratic to the extreme.