Essay on Greek Culture and Democracy

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Originally, Greece was not a country united under one ruler instead it was made up of several hundred poleis or city-states. Each polis was independent and had its political system. Athenian democracy developed around the 6th century in Athens one of the Greek city-states (Wikipedia, n.d). Around 800-500 BCE power and wealth in Athens were concentrated amongst the aristocratic class until the middle class demanded for political and economic rights (Brand, n.d.). In this system, all male Athenian citizens could vote and were able to reject or accept the laws proposed by the Boule council or the legislative council, which was responsible for the legislative agenda (Brand, n.d.).

The Greek democracy came to an end because of a series of events that began with the Persian Empire taking over the cities of Ionia which led the Greek poleis to put their differences aside and unite to face a common external enemy, the Persian Empire (Brand, n.d.). The Athenian force was able to overcome the Persian force at the Battle of Marathon. In 481 the Second Persian War started and once again the Greek poleis united and were able to defeat the army of the Persian emperor Xerxes in the Battle of Pratea in June 479 BCE. Afterward, Athens and some of the Greek city-states of the Aegean island and the Ionian coast wanted to continue the war and they formed a pact called the Delian League on the island of Delos (Brand, n.d.). The Allies had to contribute ships and money to continue the conflict with Persia. Athens was the leader of the Delian League and as the years went by it started to treat its allies as subjects. This became clear in 471 BCE when Naxos, a city-state, tried to withdraw from the league; Athens saw it as a rebellion and crushed the Naxon military (Brand, n.d.). Then Athens expected the “allies” to contribute only in silver and finally, Athens moved the treasury from the island of Delos to the temple of Athena in Athens (Brand, n.d.). The contribution of the Delian League founded the golden age of Athens and the magnificent temple of Athena called the Parthenon was built thanks to the silver of the league (Brand, n.d.). Athens started to talk about the Athenian empire and the former allies had become subjects of Athens. Athens's actions caused resentment in the Greek world and Sparta was openly hostile to Athens which led to the Peloponnesian War. The war lasted for almost thirty years (Brand, n.d.). When the war was over Athens was devastated and defeated it had lost its empire. Thucydides, an Athenian aristocrat, explained that Athens was guilty of arrogance and pride which led to her fall. He furthermore explained that democracy lead to this result. Thucydides blamed the stupid masses that destroyed Athens through its democratic system (Brand, n.d.).

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Democracy lasted for less than 200 years in Athens and it fully ended when all of Greece was dominated by King Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 336 BCE (Brand, n.d.).


    1. Brand, P. J. (n.d.). Athens & Sparta: Democracy vs. dictatorship. Retrieved from: pdf
    2. Wikipedia. N.d. Athenian democracy. Retrieved from: https:en.m.wikipedia.orgwikiAthenian_democracy?fbclid=IwAR2BKabj6QBYB6LM6vQ5su9oJySOa-ajXsQ-cC1hzO6etH7TRLdsxjuC9V0#:~:text=After%20his%20death%2C%20Athenian%20democracy,end%20of%20the%20Peloponnesian%20War.&text=Democracy%20was%20suppressed%20by%20the,a%20real%20democracy%20is%20debatable
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