A blupete Essay

Grecian Democracy, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Democracy"

The first democracy, of which we have record, is that which was practiced in ancient Athens. In his capacity as a history writer, Aristotle, in his work, The Athenian Constitution (350 BC), writes that the Athenians practiced democracy only to the extent of putting and keeping in power members of a very exclusive group, a group which formed but a minority in the universal group we stylize as society. The Athenian constitution was oligarchical, in every respect. The poorer classes were the serfs of the rich. They cultivated the lands of the rich and paid rent. The whole country was in the hands of nine magistrates, called archons, who were elected according to qualifications of birth and wealth. These ruling magistrates held their positions for life, except for that latter period when they served for a term of ten years. In time, this Greek notion of democracy was set aside in favour of the draw.
"... the method of election in the choice of archons is replaced by lot; some way must be found to keep the rich from buying, or the knaves from smiling, their way into office. To render the selection less than wholly accidental, all those upon whom the lot falls are subjected, before taking up their duties, to a rigorous dokimasia, or character examination, conducted by the Council or the courts. The candidate must show Athenian parentage on both sides, freedom from physical defect and scandal, the pious honoring of his ancestors, the performance of his military assignments, and the full payment of his taxes; his whole life is on this occasion exposed to challenge by any citizen, and the prospect of such a scrutiny presumably frightens the most worthless from the sortition. If he passes this test the archon swears an oath that he will properly perform the obligations of his office, and will dedicate to the gods a golden statue of life-size if he should accept presents or bribes."
Durant in Our Oriental Heritage continued to write that the head man, the archon basileus, must "nine times yearly ... obtain a vote of confidence from the Assembly" and any citizen may bring him to task for an inappropriate act of his. "At the end of his term all his official acts, accounts, and documents" are reviewed by a special board, logistai, which is responsible to the Council. "Severe penalties, even death, may avenge serious misconduct."

Grecian democracy, however, such as it was, was soon covered over with the murk of the middle ages. Democracy's re-flowering in the world, in respect to the rights of the people, first appeared in England with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. A study of an era known as The Enlightenment, is the study of the beginnings of modern democracy.4

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