Athenian Radical Democracy Essay

1053 words - 5 pages

The Athenian radical democracy provided freedom, although not complete freedom. The Democracy in Athens, much like the democracy currently here in the United States, was pretty broad, but there is a line in the sand where free speech and action are no longer tolerated by the state and its citizens. Direct involvement in the government was limited by the economic and social barriers of entry, so that only the rich and popular could fully participate. The poor, outcasts of society, and women were mainly barred from the political process. The Athenian radical democracy was revolutionary in the amount of freedom it gave, no other civilization before had treaded on the ideas the Athenians put ...view middle of the document...

.. Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well" (Spielvogel 50). Pericles expanded participation in the government to all males over the age of 18 and constructed a council of 500 males (the "Boule") to write the agenda for the "ecclesia", (the mass gathering of all the citizens). When the ecclesa gathered however, it was never all the citizens like was dreamed. There were around 43,000 eligible males, and the Pnyx meeting hill, which could hold six thousand, was seldom filled. Pericles instituted a wage for people working for the state, before that the poor could not hold public office or serve in the military because they could not afford it. Even with these reforms the democracy though was still not open to all people, women were banned from participation and the poor still could not serve in the more elite military units that required purchasing your own equipment. The living wage paid to public servants was a step in the right direction, it gave lower class citizens the opportunity to work for the benefit of Athens without starving.Women were treated as lesser citizens in Athens. Plato remarks, "... half the human race - the female sex, the half which in any case is inclined to be secretive and crafty, because of its weakness - has been left to its own devices because of the misguided indulgence of the legislator" (ETEP, 7). Although the Athenians were concerned about the rights of all males, they always seemed to overlook the freedom and rights of the females. The activities of women in Athens were little more than bearing children, spinning and weaving, and sometimes managing the domestic arrangements. The men looked down on the women as inferior and did not provide them any voice under the law. In a land so proud of its freedom it is interesting to note the lack of any for half of the population. Even in plays the women voicing their opinions were...

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