October 22, 2014
Athenians: Democracy and Freedom!
Athens, the first Greek city-state to accept a democratic government, is my choice on being the most “noble” in antiquity. The Athenians, throughout the centuries, were ruled under an aristocratic government, a tyrannical government, and finally established a democratic government, which they were willing to die for. The fought courageously for their freedom and before any battle a speech was given that mentioned the Athenians were fighting to preserve their freedom and if they did not step up they would be under control of their enemy. Regardless of the outcome, unlike the Spartans, the Athenians would fight for their right to rule themselves. I would first like to start off on and give a little background information on the growth and development of Athens, and how Athens led the way and became, in my opinion, leaders in the fields of art, science, intellectual thought, and government. Before the eighth century Athens was an aristocratic city-state, historians are not sure when the prominent families were replaced by a council that consisted of three civic officials, labelled as Archons, who would distribute the responsibilities amongst themselves. The Athenians still held on to the Homeric title basileus, which was given to the archon whose responsibility was to deal with lawsuits of religious matters, such as, cult property and administer cults of the polis. (Pomeroy, 2012, p. 189) As the Athenians progressed, as Pomeroy (2012) mentions, as early as the seventh century six thesmothetai were added to the three archons and were the considered the lawmakers of Athens. The positions of the archons were elected every year by Aristocratic families and Eupatrids, or well-known families, and when their term was up they would be on the council for life. The council was made up of past archons which later on would allow ordinary men, who lived in the polis, to participate. This form of government worked for the Athenians until about 682bce when Cylon, an Olympic victor, tried to become the tyrant of Athens, which was rejected by the Athenians and Cylon and his supporters were ran out of the city. (Pomeroy, 2012, p. 190) Cylon’s failed attempt to establish a tyranny in Athens would pave the way for Cleisthenes who was considered the father of Democracy. During the sixth and seventh centuries Athens was famous for the types of vases they produced which subjects included athletics, horsemanship, drinking parties, music lessons, and homosexuality (Pomeroy, 2012, p. 130) Athenian vases were found all over Attica, proving that Athenian vases were in high demand throughout the Ancient world. Athens also included some important philosophers who are still talked about today like Socrates. Socrates brought up the question of ethics and his teaching spread all around Greece. Athens eventually fell under the tyranny of Pisistratus and under his tyrannical rule made cultural and economic improvements for the citizens of Athens. Pisistratus began building public buildings for the Athenians which would improve their health and would increase the population of the city. Pisistratus did this by opening public bath houses and constructed the first aqueduct in Athens. He supported religion and arts that would enhance Athens reputation of culture and established more festivals for athletics and gods (Pomeroy, 212, p. 201) Tyranny collapsed in 510bce which created an opening for a new rule and a new government, which Cleisthenes would lay the foundation of the first democratic city-state. The rise of democracy was considered a war with no leader, as Cleisthenes who opposed the new ruler of Athens, Isagoras, withdrew from Athens. The lower classes of Athens rose up against Isagoras, who was backed up by the Spartans, forced them to surrender and leave the city for good. Cleisthenes and his supporters were welcomed back to Athens and he then decided he had to take the power