In the fifth century BC: democracy from Athens took form after the people there had grown weary of Tyranny and tyrants. So, they decided to overthrow tyranny and let people chose what to do, but there are some questions about with democracy. What led Athens to become an Imperial power throughout Greece can be traced all the way back to the reforms done by Cleisthenes and then Solon. The questions remained whether Athenian democracy was just or not, being on balance a good thing, how literature reflects its politics and war, and how was Athens being just towards its own citizens. The Reforms of Cleisthenes were a way to deal with the problems of factions, and then tyranny. So he aimed towards the root of these problems. The people were going from clan affiliations to demes. But these were merely the stepping stones for Solon and his own reforms, in which he basically created property classes. And these reforms were in question whether it helped Athenian democracy or not.
Was it good that Athenian democracy was on balance? The answer is yes, because it had structure made up of an assembly (Ekklesia) called the Boule. In Plutarch Life of Solon, it mentioned that Solon’s main goals were to take care of the whole community before a one class, create a fair and balanced situation, put a reign of good order, and remove the grievances of the poor. And also cancelling the debts that were placed on the poor, Seisachtheia or “shaking off” the burdens. Finally, Solon got rid of Draco’s laws and made sure that his own laws would last a hundred years to keep the order and peace after he is gone.
In the Ekklesia, issues were discussed ranging from deciding military and financial magistracies to debating military matters. This was all that was needed for Athenian democracy to be balanced so it could avoid being corrupted as much as possible. The members were citizens over thirty-five years of age, paid their taxes and chosen by lottery. There were 100 members from each tribe in the council totaling up to 400 members. In Herodotus The Histories III.80-82 It mentioned that democracy was operated by magistrates who were held accountable and were selected by lot; deliberation is made by the entire citizen body. Again, this was designed to avoid corruption and when corruption does arise it would be taken care of right away. Herodotus compared Athens’ democracy to Persia’s monarchy/tyranny, he concluded that Athenian democracy was better than the Persian monarchy. The Persian monarchy allowed malpractices to take place within the Persian Empire during Darius’ reign and limited the power of the king himself. He did not want that because he could not be in absolute total control. In conclusion, Athenian democracy was indeed balanced, and it made sure that no Athenian government would be corrupted in one way or the other.
How did literature and philosophy reflect Athens politics and war? The answer is by looking at life the way the Greeks had. Greek philosophy reflects war as something inevitable. In Plato’s The Republic it claims that war is a human feature of coexistence, and Plato believes that the removal or avoidance of war is only a desirable case, meaning no matter how hard humans try to prevent or do not commit to war, in the end it is only part of the human psyche. Politics in Greek philosophy signifies that it is a community, bringing men together for a common cause or interest and afterwards they do not need each other’s help, which in return contributes to the good life of each. It is both communally and individually that they form and continue association for life itself. Politics in Greek literature states that the most common type of government is a democracy, a tyranny was never always tyrannical, and monarchies and oligarchies were only ruled by a royal family. The definitions are very clear, and in fact it was often more the case that the between these types of government systems. The way in which political groups were implemented were by people coming into groups and making decisions with regards to international affairs. Whether Thucydides believed there are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ politics, or that thought the politics could even have such a visibly definite diversity. Because of the multi-faceted nature of them, Thucydides’ views were also going to be like that as well. Thucydides had a negative view of the word kratos in demokratia, which was contrary to the Athens’ popularity. In Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, 3.42-49, Thucydides saw the negative aspects of democracy as being easy for people to make a wrong decision, as evident in the speech of Diodotus and Mytilene. It was done through being fed inconsistent truths, fabrications and rhetoric from the speakers in the assembly. It as well has more general aspect that shows human nature characterized as able to turn morals of political actions than reactions that leave behind leftovers of destruction. Therefore, if Thucydides had foreseen the faults in democracy, than maybe he favors with another form of government. Only the tricky part is that Thucydides finds liabilities with all forms of governments. Greek literature on War reflects upon it the same way Greek Philosophy had, that war is part of Human nature and it was inevitable to stop it. And in the end, that’s how Humans coexist.
Was Athenian democracy “just”? The answer is no, because Athenian men were the only dominate citizenry, and did not look at women as equal and considered them inferior to men. Women could not do what male citizens could do which means they were not treated fairly. Athenian Citizens were always male and Athenian females were always females, and they could not vote and participate in government, but male citizens could. Plus, Justice was not a big part of the structure of government in Ancient Athens. Just like freedom Athenian women were not part of the society and most residents were not part of government.
In Plato’s Apology Socrates’ defense was great and impressive that it should have been enough to defend himself to avoid the death penalty for the charges against him, but in the end, he was wrongfully accused and was sentenced to death unjustly in 399 BC. If only Meletus was not thinking that he was accusing Anaxagoras instead of Socrates. Later Athens regretted killing Socrates off. Right before his death Socrates’ trial concluded with a few memorable words as court officials finished their work. He tells the crowd that his conviction resulted from his unwillingness to “address you as you would have liked me to do.” He predicts that history will come to see his conviction as “shameful for Athens,” although he purported to have no ill will for the jurors who convicted him. Socrates wanted to find out if Athenian democracy was just and it turned it was not.
Was Athens just toward her own citizens? The answer is no, just like the last paragraph Athens was not just to all its citizens, only the males. Women did not have any form of rights that included land, labor, and capital. Children, metics, and slaves did not have any voice as well, no one, other than the male citizens, participated in the decision-making process because of the lack of difference between men and women.
In Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War Pericles’ Funeral Oration Pericles knows that the women are nothing more than property to their husbands and fathers, and when the male members die they are nothing. And yet Pericles tells those women to stay strong and that their glory is not inferior to the eyes of the gods. Ironically, the greatest glory a woman can have is to be less talked about by men, whether being praised or criticized.
In conclusion, democracy in Athens in the beginning was a young, flawed and primitive form of government that was born from the weariness of one man having too much power for his own and only himself. From the aftermath of disposing of the one man rule all concept, a new idea emerged and this idea was the concept of having the people rule as one instead of one rule as people. This new idea had come from the ancient city-state in Greece known as the city of Athens, which arise in the fifth century BC. Prior to that time the Greeks were a military force which consisted of Hoplites and a tactic called the Phalanx, it took this form of cohesion to form into what is called the Polis. Since then the city-states were born from that cohesion method, but this has become a chicken and egg question in modern times ever since its creation. Athenian democracy was not perfect, it had its quarks and faults, Men were considered the only true citizens, while women were considered inferior to them, and were nothing more but caregivers and mothers. But Athenian democracy possessed something that other forms of rule lacked (i.e., monarchy), a spark one that would give hope to people and sense of freedom to all those who were willing to follow its tracks, democracy in Athens was indeed flawed in many ways and was not perfect as well, but for what it lacked in strength, it made up for it in will.