Ancient Greece Greek History the Impact of Essay

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  • Subject: Drama - World
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Ancient Greece

Greek History

The Impact of Alexander and the Development of Democracy

The development of democracy in Greece came about due to many factors, each playing a significant role in a slow process. It can be traced back to the election of Solon and his impact on the polis of Athens. He created a four-tier class system, awarding political privileges to those in each class (Ober, 1998). While more say was given to the people, it was not until the polis of Athens went to war with Sparta did great change commence. The growth of the Athenian navy was pivotal in the creation of democracy, as Athens became a predominant military power (Ober, 1998). Thereafter, equal powers were dispersed among the people, as their role in defending the state grew greater.

According to author Josiah Ober (1998), "the rise of the navy was contemporary with the flowering of Athenian democracy" (p. 64). This contributed to the defeat of the Persians in 480 B.C. And growth of the Athenian empire. Aristotle believed " the growth of Athenian naval power was linked to the development of democracy because traditional Greek ideology linked the value of the citizen to his role in the defense of the state" (Ober, 1998, p. 64). Citizens rowed the warships and thus poorer citizens began to play a larger role in the state.

It was around this time that the hoplite class was overcome by ordinary citizens (Ober, 1998). Poverty in ancient Greece was also a provocative force that led to "a continuous pressure either to preserve, or to dismantle, the position of privilege enjoyed in each community by those whose control of the ownership of land… had allowed them to concentrate resources" (Davies, 1993, p. 25). This led to a "pressure to abolish or to render more widely accessible formal political or cultic privileges and extend downwards, to the rest of the descent-group, the applicability and appropriateness of aristocratic life-styles and values" (Davies, 1993, p. 25).

Thus, the polis gave birth to democracy, particularly with the constitution of Athens (Mavrommatis, 2004, p. 7). The polis had been the preferred form of government in ancient Greece because it brought together city-states, unifying a clan/family unit against the tyranny of ancient Greece. The Greeks disfavored a monarchy, oligarchy, or tyranny and wanted to remain independent so best to serve their specific needs.

Before the defeat of the Persians and the unification and buildup of the Greek military, a polis allowed each city to have its own identity and there was an "unwilling-ness to share a city's history and pride" (Mavrommatis, 2004, p. 4). In Athens particularly, they "did not wish to share the advantages of being Athenian" (Mavrommatis, 2004, p. 4). They felt "blood-bonds" with the cities they came from, providing a loyalty to their polis unlike that for Greece as a whole.

With the spread of democracy, however, it was seen as necessary to employ ostracism and political exile in order to maintain a political balance in Ancient Greece. It is believed "the integral relation between ostracism and political power arises from the importance of exile in the exercise of power in the pre-democratic period and at the time of the foundation of the democracy" (Forsdyke, 2005, p. 144).

Cleisthenes enacted the law of ostracism, ultimately as a punishment for wrongs against the community. The first step in undertaking ostracism was to take a vote on whether to hold one. This was done once a year. The reasoning behind such an action was that it "reinforced a fundamental distinction between elite and non-elite forms of rule" (Forsdyke, 2005, p. 144). It gave non-elites the power to check intra-elite politics and abuses of power, while allowing non-elites to become a more dominant power in politics. Its main purpose was to "avoid the destabilizing consequences of violent intra-elite politics of exile by allowing for only a limited and lawful form of exile" (Forsdyke, 2005, p. 145).

The end result did little to harm the reputation of the elites being ostracized, as it was common for elites to face this fate. It was an "extremely moderate way of regulating intra-elite conflict" as it limited "the extent of damage to the citizens chosen for expulsion," creating "incentives for the ostracized to…

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