The Direct Democracy Of Ancient Greece

Samuel Reason | May 11th, 2018

Politicians being chosen at random seems a bit strange, but if you sit down and think about it, someone who is not actively looking to work in politics could potentially be a much better-suited candidate. And that is exactly what used to happen in ancient Athens in Greece, about 2400 years ago they practiced what is known as direct democracy.

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It was an experiment that was loved so much it continued for around 100 years, basically, it made sure that every adult citizen had to take an active part in the government. Each year there was a random lottery drawing, five hundred names would be drawn from a pool of their citizens. And for that year those 500 would form the government, they would be responsible for creating laws or changing old laws. However, nothing actually happened until the whole city had voted on the law, so essentially every citizen of Athens always had an active part in their government.

This route was chosen because it was thought if government electives were chosen by votes, then the elites and rich landowners would be able to influence the outcome. To vote all a citizen had to do was be to attend the assembly when the day of the vote came along. The majority ruled the outcome of the vote, and if you wanted to vote then you had to be present on the day. They made sure everyone was aware of the voting schedule by posting the dates.

It is, however, important to note that at this time a citizen was considered free men, therefore, women, children or slaves could not participate in votes. So, unfortunately, it was not the best form of democracy as many people who were part of their society could not vote. Still, it proved to be very popular and would have most likely have kept going if Greece had not lost a war to Sparta, which as a result left Athens ruled by a group of Spartans.

Many researchers and historians look back at this period as one of the finest forms of democracy, and Greece is often looked at as one of the birthplaces of the notion of democracy.

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