Democracy in Ancient Athens

Athenian Democracy

The system of governing in the modern world known as democracy has a rich historical background that originated in Athens, Greece.  It is important to understand how democratic processes began and to comprehend the relationship between modern democracy and ancient Athenian democracy.  Any possible parallels to the modern world are worth our attention as an educated public and active participant in a democratic (or non-democratic) society today. 

Connections to Modern Democracy:

"…Some parts of Greek discourse warn contemporary democrats of the obstacles to answering questions while others open up avenues of inquiry that may relieve the perpetual tension between democracy and virtue.  In this way, a serious encounter with Athenian political thought can indeed educate democracy today" (Euben, Wallach, and Ober, 26).

"[Learning about Athenian Democracy] will help to illuminate how important institutions, practices, and mentalities emerged and evolved, before they were transformed through social and political crises and conscious political reform in the different stages of democratic development…" (Raaflaub, Ober, and Wallace, 23)

"Whatever term we use for the political system introduced by Solon in the early sixth century, clearly that established by Cleisthenes' reforms almost a century later transcended it by far and created fundamentally new realities and conditions for political thought and action that were inconceivable at Solon's time" (Raaflaub, Ober, and Wallce, 15).

"…the credit for developing the first fully mature democracy belongs to athens: in this she was the school, not only of Hellas, but of modern Europe as well" (Claster, 1).