Evolution of Democracy and the Athenian Constitution Essay

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Evolution of Democracy and the Athenian Constitution

Democracy is defined in modern times as government by the people. To put that in perspective and better understand all that democracy entails we must consider its origins. It is surprising indeed that even today tyrannies and dictatorships exist in the world when more than two and a half thousand years ago the ancient Athenians had developed a functional and direct form of democracy. What contributed to this remarkable achievement and how it changed the socio-political scene in Athens is what will be considered in this paper.

The paper will have three sections, each detailing the various stages of political development from the kings of
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Honor was a competitive concept in Greek society. This held true not only for individuals but also for the highly competitive city states or poleis. Hence they were constantly at war with each other whether to add to their holdings or on issues of politics with the losing side ending up enslaved (for example the Messenians who were defeated and enslaved by the Spartans). This constant internal military pressure was the very catalyst that caused gradual changes over hundreds of years. Since kings were hereditary therefore it was always not possible to find a capable general as well as administrator in one person. The inevitable result was that the ancient warrior class--the aristocrats who formed the bulk of the army as the cavalry by virtue of owning horses-took the power of the general for themselves. This was the beginning of the second stage in the development of the constitution. Thus the office of Polemarch (leader in war) was instituted due to incompetence in war of some kings (Aristotle and Xenophon, p: 148).

Consequently the office of Archon was established to manage the administration of the state and now the king, who was called King Archon, was left with only the vestigial religious functions. According to Aristotle, for the early offices the tenure was initially for life and then for ten years. Though his descriptions
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