For I don’t think it’s easy for citizens of what are called democracies in the twentieth century, twenty-first century, to comprehend the character of the democracy of ancient Athens and the role that it played in the life of its citizens. It certainly seems clear that at any time in this period the majority of Athenian citizens were not rich enough to be hoplites. Now, it’s an interesting sign of the way some of the other Greek states felt that when the Athenians set about building their walls there were complaints from some of the Greek allies to the Spartans that the Athenians were doing this and saying this was a bad idea. If a penalty was called for, and it was not one that was described by law and very few penalties were described by law, the following procedure was used: the plaintiff who had won the case proposed a penalty, the defendant then had the opportunity to propose a different penalty. So I like to use a helpful, if an anachronistic advice by considering the three familiar branches into which we divide government: legislative, executive, and judiciary. The main sources of slaves were war captives and the captives of pirates, who made a living in large part by catching people and selling them as slaves, and of course those people at first enslaved through war piracy or other means, who were sold by slave traders. They were, as in the aristocratic past, in the position of being able to criticize magistrates and to take action against them, if they acted in a way that the Areopagus did not approve. I mean she is practically something like a witch, a sorceress; don’t imagine these Halloween kind of witches, a proper witch is so beautiful that she can bewitch you; think of that. The oath taken by jurors each time that they sat on a jury included the following clause. Cimon could have made that speech and it would have been true. Slaves worked as craftsmen in almost every trade, and it was true for the agricultural slaves on small farms, they worked alongside their masters. He does some fighting, particularly in the Hellespont, and the straits in general. For the clothing of the common people there is no way superior to that of the slaves and the resident aliens, nor is their appearance. First, he gave all free men living in Athens and Attica, the area around the city, the power of citizenship. Aristides said, before we do that, you show us that you are really committed to us, and that you will not simply use us. We are your equals was the essence of what he said. In excluding such groups, the Athenians were like every other society since the invention of civilization about 3000 B.C. Turning to the executive, as what we would call the executive, these distinctions did not exist for the Athenians. Statue of Themistocles at Piraeus / Wikimedia Commons. Okay, here’s the analogy that I suggest. After the war, Themistocles, you recall, and obviously with the Athenians at his back asserted at the very least equality with the Spartans, and certainly independence of any position following the Spartans or any grant of leadership to the Spartans. That was not the typical way for the Greeks, but rather the wealthy would have several smaller farms scattered about the polis. If anybody has any insight on that, I would be very grateful if you would tell me about it; now or at any time in the future. “It is the day of an assembly and already morning, but the Pnyx is deserted. They were called on especially — The Spartans wanted them, because the helots had run away to Mount Ethoni in Mycenae, which was a fortified place on a mountain, very hard to attack. Proceeds are donated to charity. In 421, they make a fifty-years peace; on another occasion they make a five-years peace; that’s the way they do things normally. Both states claimed those mines and it was a quarrel that was really just about money. Remember where we are before the wars begin is Cleisthenic democracy, which is pretty much a hoplite democracy, which excludes the poor from many of the activities of the state. People frequently free their slaves on their own death and often before that for various reasons. I gave a hint to this earlier. In light of that breadth of experience, the notion that decisions were made by an ignorant multitude is simply not persuasive. Why the hell did he say it at the end of that funeral oration? Speeches unhampered by rules of evidence and relevance, and without the discipline imposed by judges could be fanciful, false, and sophistical. The extension of democracy includes: Weakening power of absolute rulers / absolute monarchs. There was no provision for regular meetings; meetings would be held when they were thought to be necessary. So, as Athens goes from greatness to greatness, from success to success, and glory to glory, and from wealth to wealth, Cimon becomes this extraordinarily popular with the masses. That was the deadly stroke in what was now — what could fairly be called a political revolution in Athens. The ancient city of Athens, Greece, had a democratic government. The helots, I’ve told you all about it; you’ve read all about it, and as a man leading the rebellion in Sparta at the beginning of the fourth century said about helots and other people who were not Spartiates in Lacedaemon, they would have gladly eaten the Spartans raw. When slaves had skills, it was in the master’s interest to encourage them to do their work to the best of their ability, and so they rewarded them by letting them keep part of the profits of what they produced and it was that of course which allowed some of these people to buy their own freedom. Questions of war and peace rose more than once in Periclean Athens and each time the popular assembly had a full debate, and made the decision by raising their hands in a vote determined by a simple majority. All of this is meant to be by contrast with the picture of the south. Twice it was interrupted by oligarchic episodes. This is not in any shape, manner, or form connected with the Peloponnesian League. This was one of the most democratic aspects of this democratic constitution, the assumption that all citizens had enough sense and enough of whatever else it took to make the judgments that were so important in the courts. In Athens, the remarkable thing is, if you look at the internal development of Athens, I think you would have said in 479, Themistocles is bound to rise to the top and become the dominant politician in Athens, because of his extraordinary role in bringing victory to the Greeks.  The origin myth explaining how Athens acquired this name through the legendary contest between Poseidon and Athena was described by Herodotus,  Apollodorus,  Ovid, Plutarch,  Pausanias and others. Now this behavior is all the more remarkable in light of the political and constitutional conditions that prevailed in the Periclean democracy and thereafter. It’s in the future, and that’s not what people are expecting or wanting. So in a sense, what you can really see from this is that the league was working, as it was supposed to, to be able to do the job that it had too. That was not the view taken by the Athenians, or I guess, by most of the allies, but we can imagine that there were some of the allies, who were restless in their need to continue to make contributions to the league when they didn’t feel that there was any purpose to the league anymore. But let’s think now, for the moment, only about the beginning of the league and what was intended at first. In every way I want you to try to get out of your head the picture of slavery in the American South with its plantations and great squads of slaves in one place, under one master. All he had done was not win the war very quickly, but you know you make up charges in the world of politics. So, of course, all of these flaws were there, yet from a modern perspective I would argue that the Athenian system had a number of attractions. I think if we think of them as being about fifteen years old we’ll probably have a reasonable average. With the support of the Athenians, the Argives succeeded in forging a coalition of democratic states within the Peloponnese, including the powerful states of Mantinea and Elis.