The Greeks had a word for it, and the word was demokratia, a compound of demos (,the people’) and kratos (‘power’, or ‘rule’). Bnt it is significant that the first occurrence of the word in surviving Greek literature is in Herodotus’ History (6. 43, 13 I), which he was writing during the third quarter of the fifth century. 1 It was perhaps coined in the period following the reforms of the last decade of the sixth, which later won fame for Cleisthenes as ‘the man who gave the Athenians their democracy’ (Herodotus 6. 131; Ath. Pol. 29. 3)-although in his own day the slogans most favoured may well have been isonomia (,equality for all under the law’) and isegoria (,the right of everyone to have his say’). In 43 I Pericles could claim (Thucydides 2. 37) that the Athenian system of government was unique, and an example to every other society in Greece: ‘It is called a “democracy”, becanse it subserves the interests not of a privileged few but of the bulk of its citizens.’
The democracy which existed in. Athens for the two hundred years which followed the reforms of Cleisthenes differed in important respects from the democracies under which we live today. It is the object of this book to explain to the modern reader what its institutions were, how they worked, and what assumptions underlay them. The book is principally concerned with the fully developed democracy of the post-Ephialtic period; but a chapter is devoted to tracing the broad development of the Athenian constitution from the reforms of Solon in the early sixth century down to those of Ephialtes in the late 460s, so that the developed democracy can be seen in its proper historical context. A great deal of work has been done by historians, epigraphists, and archaeologists in the past few years to reveal or to clarify much that was formerly unknown or obscure. This seems a good time to make the results of their work accessible to a wider readership.
This book is intended not only for students of ancient history but also for the educated and interested public. I have therefore translated or paraphrased the original Greek wherever it occurs in the following pages, and transliterated the Greek words into Roman lettering. Like most others, I have not sought total consistency in representing Greek proper names, but have retained the more familiar Roman or even English forms for those that are well known CThucydides’ rather than ‘Thoukydides’, ‘Aristotle’ rather than ‘Aristoteles’, ‘Corinth’ rather than ‘Korinthos’). The notes to the text are intended to direct the reader to the fuller treatments of the evidence and arguments which can be found set out in specialized books and articles, especially those written in English.
1. Facts and Figures
2. From Solon to Ephialtes
3. Local and Central Government
- The Demes
- The Ecclesia
- The Boul”
- Courts of Law: The Dikasteria
- The Offices of State
4. Politics and Politicians
5. Violent Opposition
6. Critics and Champions
Index of Passages Cited