What is democracy?
Which civilization is most commonly associated with the origins of democracy?
What was the Athenian democracy?
Who was Solon?
What was the Roman Republic's main governing body?
What is the current state of democracy in Africa?
What is the oldest democracy in the world?
What are some factors leading to 'democratic backsliding' in the 2010s?
What is the South Australian method?
The History of Democracy: From Ancient Greece to Modern Times
- Democracy is a political system where all members have an equal share of power and the ability to hold their representatives accountable to international laws.
- Modern democracies are characterized by citizens' ability to intervene in society and hold their representatives accountable.
- Democracy is associated with ancient Greece, where it was contrasted with governance by elites, monarchy, and tyranny.
- Anthropologists have identified proto-democratic forms of decision-making among small bands of hunter-gatherers that predate agrarian societies.
- Tribalism or primitive democracy is identified as a form of decision-making in small communities where there are face-to-face discussions with a leader who has the backing of village elders.
- The concepts of democracy and constitution as a form of government originated in ancient Athens circa 508 BCE.
- Democratic advancements might have occurred independently in the Near East, the Indian subcontinent, and elsewhere before ancient Greece.
- The Spartan government was a peculiar kind of oligarchy that rejected private wealth as a primary social differentiator and had democratic elements.
- Athens is regarded as the birthplace of democracy, and literature about the Athenian democracy spans over centuries.
- The Athenian democracy was a direct democracy where the citizens voted directly on laws and policies.
- Women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from Athenian democracy.
- The Athenian democracy was overthrown by the Macedonian Empire in 322 BCE.The Development of Democracy in Ancient Athens and Rome
- Athens emerged in the 7th century BCE with a dominating aristocracy, which led to exploitation and significant problems.
- Solon, a lyric poet and lawmaker, created a mixed timocratic and democratic system of institutions, dividing Athenians into four property classes with different rights and duties for each.
- Cleisthenes reorganized the population of citizens into ten tribes, introducing the principle of equality of rights for all male citizens, and expanding access to power to more citizens.
- Athenians used lot for selecting officials to ensure all citizens were "equally" qualified for office, and a rotation system prevented anyone building up a power base.
- Athenian democracy was direct and involved citizens in the public business, with decisions made by majority vote in the Ecclesia, where all male citizens could participate.
- The Athenian Boule was elected by lot every year, and the courts had unlimited power to control the other bodies of the government and its political leaders.
- Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle developed political philosophy within the Athenian democratic environment.
- The Athenian democracy twice voted against its democratic constitution, establishing the Four Hundred and the Thirty Tyrants, but democracy was recovered in less than a year in both cases.
- After the Roman conquest of Greece, Athens was restricted to matters of local administration.
- Athenian democracy was viewed negatively by scholars such as Plato and Aristotle, but positively by modern political thinkers.
Rome was ruled by a king elected by the Assemblies until the last king was deposed in 510 BCE, leading to a new constitution crafted by a group of aristocrats.
The plebs were demanding for definite, written, and secular laws, and the Senate in 454 BCE sent a commission of three patricians to Greece to study and report on the legislation of Solon and other lawmakers.
The Twelve Tables recognized certain rights, and by the 4th century BCE, the plebs were given the right to stand for consulship and other major offices of the state.
The political structure of the Roman constitution resembled a mixed constitution, with two consuls, the Senate, and the people through the assemblies.
The focus of the Roman Senate was directed towards foreign policy, managing both Rome's civil administration and military conflict, while the assemblies had the final say on major decisions.
The requirements for becoming a senator included having at least 100,000 denarii worth of land, being born of the patrician class, and having held public office at least once before.
The assemblies were restricted from any legislative initiative or the ability to debate, and the unequal weight of votes favored the leading men.
Roman stability was owing to the checks each element put on the superiority of any other, and the balance was not even in every way.
The Roman model of governance inspired many political thinkers over the centuries, and modern democracies imitate more the Roman than the Greek models.A Brief History of Democracy
The Carthaginian constitution leaned towards democracy rather than aristocracy during the Hannibalic War.
Rome's core values included order, hierarchy, discipline, and obedience, and these values were enforced with laws regulating the private life of an individual.
The inability of the traditional republican constitutions to adapt to the needs of the growing empire led to the rise of a series of over-mighty generals in the last century BCE.
Julius Caesar marched on Rome and took supreme power over the republic, which led to the rise of Marcus Antonius and Octavian.
Octavian took on the title of Augustus and left the majority of Republican institutions intact, but he influenced everything using personal authority and ultimately controlled the final decisions.
Early institutions included the Ecclesia, Boule, and Heliaea in Athens, and the Roman Republic's main institutions were the Senate, the Comitia, and the magistrates.
The idea that the United States Constitution and democracy derived from various indigenous peoples of the Americas, including the Iroquois, is a myth rather than fact.
The secret ballot was highly controversial in the 19th century, and the two earliest systems used were the Victorian method and the South Australian method.
The end of World War II was a temporary victory for democracy in Europe and resulted in the United Nations' decision to partition the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
The world changed from having not a single liberal democracy with universal suffrage in 1900 to 120 of the world's 192 nations, or 62%, becoming such democracies by the end of the century.
The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq led to a new constitution with free and open elections, and the Arab Spring led to establishing a democracy in Tunisia and some increased democratic rights in Morocco.
In Africa, democratization seems almost stalled since 2005 because of the resistance of some 20 non-democratic regimes, most of which originated in the 1980s.The State of Democracy Around the World
There have been two coups in Thailand that overthrew democratically elected governments in 2006 and 2014. In 2014, the constitution was changed to increase the junta's power.
The Cambodian government dissolved the main opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party, in 2017, leading to a one-man dictatorship under Hun Sen.
Ukraine has seen several protest movements leading to a switch from effective oligarchy to more democracy since the Maidan revolution of February 2014.
Poland and Hungary have become "illiberal democracies," with ruling parties in both countries working to undermine democratic governance.
"Protection-based" attitudes combining cultural conservatism and leftist economic attitudes were the strongest predictor of support for authoritarian modes of governance in English-speaking Western democracies.
The share of weaker electoral democracies has grown significantly since 2006, despite the number of democratic states continuing to grow.
Authoritarianism and populism are on the rise globally, with the number of people living in democracies decreasing.
Economic inequality and social discontent, personalism, poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and government manipulation of civil society are some of the factors leading to "democratic backsliding" in the 2010s.
The United States is identified as the oldest democracy, while New Zealand has the longest history of universal suffrage.
Deliberative fora, such as citizens' assemblies, have been used in Canada, the Netherlands, and Iceland to debate electoral reform and constitutional change.
Test your knowledge of the history of democracy with this informative quiz! From ancient Greece to modern times, explore the development and evolution of democracy as a political system. Learn about the origins of democracy in Athens, the rise of the Roman Republic, and the challenges faced by democracies around the world today. With questions ranging from the birthplace of democracy to the state of democracy around the world, this quiz will challenge your understanding of this important topic. So, put your thinking cap on and see how much
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