Democracy in Athens
What does the Classical Greece's heritage consist in?
In 431 B.C, war erupted in Greece as two very different Greek city-states, Athens and Sparta, fought for domination of the Greek world. In the first winter of the war held a public funeral to honor those who had died in battle. As was the custom in Athens, one leading citizen was asked to address the crowd, and on this day it was Pericles who spoke to the people. In this famous Funeral Oration, Pericles gave voice to the ideal of democracy and the importance of the individual. It was the Greeks who created the intellectual foundations of our Western heritage. They asked some basic questions about human life, philosophy, education and religion that still dominate our own intellectual pursuits , such as : What is the nature of the universe ? What is the purpose of human existence? What is our relationship to divine forces? What is true education? Etc… Not only did the Greeks provide answers to these questions, but they created a system of logical analytical thought to examine them. This rational outlook has remains an important feature of Western civilization. How was the Athenian democracy organized?
During the age of Pericles, the Athenians became deeply attached to their democratic system. The sovereignty of the people was embodied in the assembly (ecclesia), which consisted of all male citizens over eighteen years of age. In the 440s, that was probably a group about 43,000. Meetings of the assembly were held on the hillside of the Pnyx, east of the Acropolis. The assembly passed all laws and made final decisions on war and foreign policy. Usually, only respected leaders could speak and that required considerable speaking ability. The Council of Five Hundred prepared the agenda for the assembly and made recommendations for action. Thus, the council served as a control on the assembly. The council was divided into ten smaller groups of fifty called prytanies. Each prytany held...
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