Mate: Ancient Greece and J. B. Bury Essay

Submitted By matematemate
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n A History of Greece, to the Death of Alexander the Great, J. B. Bury says the Spartan Assembly or Ecclesia was restricted to Spartiate men of at least 30* years of age, who met when summoned by the Ephors or Gerousia. Their place of meeting, called the skias, refers to a canopy, and possibly the name of a building. They met monthly. Sarah Pomeroy, in Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History, says they met outdoors monthly at the full moon, but this is controversial. They might have met at the new moon and indoors, although since this was before street lights, and since the moon in some aspect comes into the picture -- therefore, you have a night scene -- Pomeroy's position makes sense. We don't know for sure if the ordinary Spartan had the right to debate. Pomeroy says not. Speeches were made by kings, the elders, and ephors. This limits the democratic nature of the Spartan mixed government. The men of the ecclesia could only vote yes or no and if "crooked," their vote by shouting could be vetoed by the Gerousia.
Here is what Aristotle has to say about the Spartan Ecclesia (Politics 1273a)

"The reference of some matters and not of others to the popular assembly rests with the kings in consultation with the Elders in case they agree1 unanimously, but failing that, these matters also lie with the people2; and when the kings introduce business in the assembly, they do not merely let the people sit and listen to the decisions that have been taken by their rulers, but the people have the sovereign decision, and anybody who wishes may speak against the proposals introduced, a right that does not exist under the other constitutions. The appointment by co-optation of the Boards of Five which control many important matters, and the election by these boards of the supreme magistracy of the Hundred, and also their longer tenure of authority than that of any other officers (for they are in power after they have gone out of office and before they have actually entered upon it) are oligarchical features; their receiving no pay and not being chosen by lot and other similar regulations must be set down as aristocratic, and so must the fact that the members of the Boards are the judges in all lawsuits, [20] instead of different suits being tried by different courts as at Sparta. But the Carthaginian system diverges from aristocracy in the direction of oligarchy most signally in respect of a certain idea that is shared by the mass of…