Ancient Civilizations Chw3mi

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Ancient Civilizations


Athens: On the Road to Democracy

  • Early Athenians tried to solve their governmental problems in various ways

  • One solution was to appoint a magistrate called an archon

  • The archon’s job was to solve ongoing disputes between aristocrats and common citizens

  • The most famous archon was Solon who brought in a number of economic and social changes which included

    • Changes to the law code that helped relieve the debt and land problems of the poor

    • Abolishment of the practice of selling debtors into slavery

    • Abolishment of aristocratic privilege

    • Council of 400

  • Unfortunately, the road to democracy was not a smooth one

  • Tyrants came to power throughout the Archaic period

  • Peisistratus is a famous Greek who became a tyrant in charge of Athens

  • He defeated his opponents (on the third attempt) and took the city

  • Peisistratus ruled until his death when his son, Hippias, took over

  • Hippias ruled until the army of Sparta farced an end to the tyranny in 510 BCE

  • Hippias was forced into exile and Athens again had to find new political solutions.

  • Cleisthenes finally proposed a solution

  • He created a Council of 500 with 50 members from each of the new 10 tribes of Athens that allowed a greater say in political matters

  • Furthermore, the practice of Ostracism was introduced

  • Ostracism allowed the city to send any citizen and his family into exile for 10 years if that citizen was in danger of becoming a tyrant

  • Every January the Athenian Assembly voted on whether ostracism was needed and who it would be (sort of like ancient Survivor)

  • A minimum of 6000 votes needed to be cast on ostraka (broken pieces of pottery) for an ostracism to happen

  • The person who’s name appeared most often was sent into exile

  • The first ostracism occurred in 487 BCE.

  • The idea that Athens was always democratic, therefore, is not an accurate portrayal of the political challenges Athens faced

Spartan Government

  • Sparta & Athens represent 2 opposing concepts of the Greek polis

  • Also represent opposing concepts of the individual's relationship to the state.

  • The single, overwhelming fact of Spartan history was the Messenean War.

  • 725 BCE, the Spartans annexed all territory of their neighbour, Messenia.

  • Controlling the territory of a subject population that outnumbered their population ten to one, Spartans worried of revolt and so invented a new political system as dramatically revolutionary as Athenian democracy in the north:

    • They turned their state into what amounts to a military state.

  • The Messenians were turned into agricultural slaves called helots.

  • The military and the city‑state became the centre of Spartan existence.

  • The state determined whether children, both male and female, were strong when they were born; weakling infants were left in the hills to die

  • At 7, every male Spartan was sent to military and athletic school. These schools taught toughness, discipline, endurance of pain (often severe pain), and survival skills.

  • At 20, after thirteen years of training, the Spartan became a soldier. The Spartan soldier spent his life with his fellow soldiers; he lived in barracks and ate all his meals with his fellow soldiers.

  • At 30, the Spartan become an "equal," and was allowed to live in his own house with his own family—although he continued to serve in the military.

  • The ideology of Sparta was oriented around the State. The individual lived (and died) for the state.

  • The combination of this ideology, the education of Spartan males, and the disciplined maintenance of a standing army gave the Spartans the stability that had been threatened during the Messenean revolt.

  • Spartan society was divided into three main classes.

  • At the top was the Spartiate, or native Spartan

  • The Spartiate served in the army and was the only person who enjoyed the full political and legal rights of the state.

  • Below the Spartiates were the perioeci, foreigners who served as a kind of buffer population between the Spartans and the helots.

  • At the bottom were the helots.

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