By John Thorley
This pamphlet outlines the advance and operation of Athenian democracy to the top of the 5th century BC. Separate sections research the prelude to democracy, the emergence of a democratic process, and how the program labored in perform. a last part makes a speciality of the questions:
- how may still we pass judgement on the good fortune of Athenian democracy?
- who benefitted?
- was it an effective method of government?
- in what experience used to be Athenian democracy the forerunner of recent democracies?
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Extra info for Athenian Democracy (Lancaster Pamphlets) (1996)
People had become used to the idea of cases being tried and penalties set by large numbers of their fellow citizens. It is therefore no surprise that Kleisthenes followed the principles established by Solon, but he refined the system considerably. It should be noted, though, that during the early fifth century the dikasteria, as they were known after 32 Kleisthenes’ reforms, remained in principle courts of appeal, cases being first referred to one of the arkhons or, in cases of robbery and certain other acts of violence, to the Eleven, who were annually appointed magistrates in charge of the state prison and of the ‘police force’ of 300 Scythian archers, with powers to fine and impose other punishments, even the death penalty, if the culprit was caught in the act.
It looks as if there may be more to all this than we can prove for certain. Whatever the details, Kleisthenes may have done deals both with the remaining Peisistratids and with the new owners of these east coast estates. By these means he may have hoped to be able to influence a majority (two-thirds) of the trittyes of seven tribes (I, VII and X, and II, III, V and IX)—but one has to admit that the evidence is circumstantial. Nevertheless, the suspicion remains that the allocation of trittyes to tribes was quite a subtle game, and Kleisthenes may well have played it as far as he could.
And secondly, he took action to make the economic position of small farmers, who were among those supporting him, more secure. This he did by offering them state loans, which were paid for out of a 10 per cent tax on all produce. In effect this measure transferred some of the profits of the more wealthy farmers to aid the poorer ones, though even the poorer ones contributed. It also kept poorer farmers out of the hands of extortionate money lenders. He also encouraged the planting of olive trees all over Attica.
Athenian Democracy (Lancaster Pamphlets) (1996) by John Thorley