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Government: a system of political and social representation and control :. Democracy: A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

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a system of political and social representation and control:


A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections


Greece, Athens & Athens Law

  • Greece started about 2000 B.C. by establishing cities in valleys along Greece’s rocky coast
  • Each city-state had its own government due to their geographic locations
  • Athens was the largest & most powerful city state in Greece
  • Athens first had a monarchy (government controlled by one person)
  • Athens government developed into an aristocracy (State ruled by noble class)
  • Citizens - were all free adult males
  • Slaves - formed 1/3 of the Athens population

Democratic Greek Leaders





Elected chief Archon (statesman) in 594 B.C. to help solve the problems of Athens

  • A statesman who solved the economic & political crisis that Athens faced by passing a law outlawing slavery based on debt & he canceled the farmers debts.
  • Established four classes of citizenship based on wealth, rather than heredity.
  • Created a council of 400, which prepared business for the already existing council.
  • Introduced a code of laws, which gave citizens the right to bring charges against wrongdoers.
  • Encouraged the export of goods, which became a profitable overseas trade.

Solon (SO-luhn)


With most of the land and political power in the hands of the nobles, the peasants were rapidly losing not only their land but their freedom as well. Solon annulled all mortgages and debts, limited the amount of land anyone might add to his holdings, and outlawed all borrowing in which a person’s liberty might be pledged.

Other economic reforms included a ban on the export of all agricultural products except olive oil. Although there was opposition to Solon’s reforms, they subsequently became the basis of the Athenian state. He also introduced a more humane law code to replace the code of Draco. - From later accounts in the writings of Aristotle and Plutarch it appears that in Athens the penalty of death was prescribed for the most trivial offense. The code adopted the principle that murder must be punished by the state and not by vendetta.




A rich and powerful aristocrat

  • In 508 B.C. he introduces new reforms
  • Wanted to break up the power of the nobility
  • He allowed all citizens to submit laws for debate & passage
  • He reorganized the assembly to make Athens a Full Democracy (Every Athenian man would have one vote, and they would all meet and vote on what to do. The big meeting was called the Assembly)
  • Created the council of Five Hundred, (a smaller council of 500 men, who were chosen by a lottery, and changed every year)
  • He arranged the voting so that his family, the Alcmaeonids (alk-MEE-oh-nids), would have more votes than anyone else.
  • Regarded as the Founder of Democracy in Athens

Greek – Persian Wars 490 B.C. - 479 B.C.

Persia invades Greece causing the Greek city-states to unite. Greece defeats Persia & creates an alliance of 140 city-states called The Delian League, with Athens as its lead city-state.


A statesman who increased the number of paid public officials & paid jurors

  • Under Pericles, Athens evolved into a Direct Democracy (a form of government where citizens rule directly & not thru representatives)
  • Under Pericles, more Athens citizens were actively involved in government than any other city-state
  • He is also responsible for the building of the Parthenon


Led Athens for 32 years, from 461 to 429 B.C.

“ Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.”

The Golden Age of Greece


Eventually, Greece is defeated by Sparta in what is known as The Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. – 404 B.C.)

After the Peloponnesian War was over, all the cities of Greece were worn out & poor. Many men went and fought for the Persians for money. But others tried to rebuild the cities. This was the time of Socrates and his student Plato, the great philosophers.

To the north of Greece, in a country called Macedon (MA-suh-donn), King Philip II had noticed that the Greeks were very weak. He attacked the Greek city-states and one by one he took them over. When Philip II was assassinated in 336 B.C., his son Alexander (Alexander The Great) became king, and he also ruled Greece. Alexander was only 20 when he became king. At first a lot of people thought he was too young. But he not only held onto Greece, he also took a big army of Greeks and Macedonians and attacked the Persian Empire!


In 334 BC, Alexander the Great of Macedonia left Pella, crown city of Macedonia, to attack the Persians that had been threatening the Greeks for more than a century. Eight years later, Alexander had put an end to the Egyptian and Persian Empire; he controlled the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, and Indus valleys. He was both pharaoh of Egypt, and The Great King of Persia. However ten years after leaving Pella, he was dead in Babylon, conquered by a fever. When asked on his death bed who was to succeed him he answered: "The strongest".


Greek Philosophers





Ancient Greek philosophy is dominated by three very famous men: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. All three of these lived in Athens for most of their lives, and they knew each other. Socrates came first, and Plato was his student. Socrates was killed in 399 B.C., & Plato began his work by writing down what Socrates had taught, and then continued by writing down his own ideas and opening a school. Aristotle, who was younger, came to study at Plato's school, and ended up starting his own school as well.

Socrates was ultimately arrested for his philosophical teachings & sentenced to death. He was poisoned by being made to drink Hemlock, (a plant). He never wrote down his teachings.

Plato was born in Athens, to a very wealthy & aristocratic family. Many of his relatives were involved with Athenian politics, though Plato himself was not.When Plato was a young man, he went to listen to Socrates, & learned from Socrates how to think, and what sort of questions to think about. When Socrates was killed, Plato was very upset (He was 30 years old when Socrates died). Practically everything we know about Socrates comes from what Plato wrote down. One of his earlier works is the Republic, which describes what Plato thought would be a better form of government than the government of Athens.


Plato also thought a lot about the natural world and how it works. He thought that everything had a sort of ideal form. The ideal form of a man is his soul, according to Plato. The soul is made of three parts: our natural desires, our will, which lets us resist our natural desires, and our reason, which tells us when to resist our natural desires and when to obey them. For instance, when you are hungry, and you want to eat, that's a natural desire. If you are in the cafeteria at lunchtime, that's a good time to obey your natural desire and go ahead and eat. But if you are hungry in the middle of class, your reason will tell you to wait until lunch, and your will lets you control yourself.

Plato started a school for philosophers, called the Academy. The Academy was a big success, and Plato stayed there for the rest of his life. One of Plato's students at the Academy was Aristotle. Plato spent a lot of the last part of his life writing another political piece called the Laws, which talks about how corrupt politicians are, and how they have to be watched every minute. Plato died at 82, in 347 B.C.


Aristotle was not originally from Athens. He lived near Macedon, in the north of Greece. He was not from a rich family like Plato. When Aristotle was a young man, about 350 B.C., he went to study at Plato's Academy. Plato was old then. Aristotle did very well at the Academy, but he never got to be among its leaders, & when Plato died, he was not chosen to lead the Academy after him. Soon afterwards, Aristotle left Athens and went to Macedon to be the tutor of the young prince Alexander, who grew up to be Alexander The Great. When Alexander grew up and became King, Aristotle went back to Athens and opened his own school, the Lyceum (lie-SAY-um). The school was successful for hundreds of years. Aristotle & Alexander remained friends for the remainder of Alexander’s life.

Aristotle was more interested in science than Socrates or Plato. He wanted to use Socrates' logical methods to figure out how the real world worked; therefore Aristotle is really the father of today's scientific method. Aristotle was especially interested in biology, in classifying plants & animals in a way that would make sense. This is part of the Greek impulse to make order out of chaos: to take the chaotic natural world and impose a man-made order on it. He created a classification system of monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies, democracies & republics which we still use today.

When Alexander died in 323 B.C., there were revolts against Macedonian rule in Athens. People accused Aristotle of being secretly on the side of the Macedonians. He left town quickly, and spent the last years of his life back in the north again where he had been born.


Greek Games

The first Olympic games at Olympia were held in Ancient Greece in the city state of Athens 776 B.C. There was a flame burning in the honor of Zeus, lord of all the gods. They were a constant in ancient Greece. The games were even held in 480 B.C. during the Persian Wars, and they coincided with the Battle of Thermopylae.

The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I.


The very first Olympic games only held one event - the marathon.

The games were greatly expanded from a one-day festival of athletics and wrestling to, in 472 BC, five days with many events:

wrestling, boxing, horse racing, long jumping, javelin, and chariot races.

Early Olympic victors became national heroes and celebrated in music and poetry.

In early Olympic Games - women were not allowed to watch the games.

The Olympic Games were held to help unite many different countries in a peaceful manner. Each participating country is limited to three entries.

The Greek competitors marked the first modern event of the Olympics with cross country runners bringing a torch from the valley of Olympia to light a much larger torch in the stadium where the games are held.

The Olympic Games were banned in AD 394 but were revived and made international in 1896.


The Legacy of Greece

  • Greece set lasting standards in politics & Philosophy.
  • Greeks did not rely on superstition or traditional explanations of the world. Instead, they used reason & intelligence to discover predictable patterns that they called “Natural Laws”.
  • The Greeks developed direct democracy in order that citizens could actively participate in political decisions.
  • They were the first to think of 3 branches of government
    • Legislative branch – to pass laws.
    • Executive branch – to carry out the laws.
    • Judicial branch – to settle disputes about the laws

History of Republican Government

A Republic means the people rule themselves through votes and their consent, not one single person (For the People, By the People).  The Roman Republic took much of the Greek government's principles and incorporated them into their own.  The Republic's governing body was called the Senate, made up of Patricians who ran for elections.  In America, a senator is elected into office for six years, while in Rome, a senator, unless proclaimed Senator For Life, had one year in office.  The Senate elected two wealthy men to become the Consuls of Rome.  These men would be the ones to execute laws and whatever the Senate thought up, each with the power to check the other because the Romans swore they'd never bow to a king again.  If a war should come up, one Consul would lead the armies, called Legions, while the other minded the civil businesses.  If the now greatly expanded Republic should be in a situation most dire, the Senate would elect one man Dictator of Rome.  This meant that the Senate agreed to have one man have total power of 6 months, after that, he was no longer in power.

This Republic, however, wasn't much of a Republic to poor people called Plebeians.  Slaves had no say at all in anything.  The lack of Plebeian representation led to uprisings or civil wars, so the Senate put in a position for two men to represent the Plebeians and they had the power to call veto (I oppose) and thereby nullifying anything the Senate passed which was not in the best interests of the common people.


An important victory for the plebeians was forcing creation of a written law code. With laws unwritten, patrician officials often interpreted the law to suit themselves

In 451 B.C. a group of 10 officials began writing down Rome’s laws. They had the laws carved on 12 tables, or tablets & publicly displayed. The 12 tables established the idea that all free citizens had the right to protection of the law & that laws would be fairly administered.


Magistrates - is a judicial officer with limited authority to administer and enforce the law.

2 *consuls—chief magistrates who convened and presided over the Senate and assemblies, initiated and administered legislation, served as generals in military campaigns, and represented Rome in foreign affairs.

8 *praetors—served primarily as judges in law courts, but could convene the Senate and assemblies; they assumed administrative duties of consuls when these were absent from Rome. 2 censors—elected every 5 years for terms of 1½ years; revised lists of senators and equestrians; conducted census of citizens and property assessments for tax purposes; granted state contracts.

4 aediles—supervised public places, public games, and the grain supply in the city of Rome; 2 were required to be plebeians, and the other two (who had more status) could come from either order; the latter 2 were called curule aediles.

10 tribunes—had to be plebeian, because the office was established to protect the plebeians from arbitrary actions of magistrates. Hence the primary power of tribunes was negative; they could veto the act of any magistrate and stop any official act of administration.

20 quaestors—administered finances of state treasury and served in various capacities in the provinces; when elected quaestor, a man automatically became eligible for membership in the Senate, though censors had to appoint him to fill a vacancy



  • composed of 600 magistrates and ex-magistrates (minimum qualification was election as quaestor) who served for life unless expelled by the censors
  • normally met in a building called the Curia located in the Roman Forum
  • although technically an advisory body, in effect the Senate was the chief governmental body because it controlled public finances and foreign affairs, assigned military commands and provinces, and debated and passed decrees that would be submitted to the assemblies for final ratification
  • the Republican government was symbolized by the letters SPQR (senatus populusque Romanus), meaning “the Senate and the Roman people”
  • Assemblies:
  • These were theoretically composed of all males who were full Roman citizens, though individuals had to attend in person in order to vote. No debate from the floor was possible, and votes were counted in groups, not individually (the vote of each group was determined by the vote of the majority of individuals in that group).

For hundreds of years after the founding of the republic, Rome expanded its territories through conquest & trade. By about 70 B.C. Rome’s Mediterranean possessions stretched from Anatolia in the east to Spain in the west. But expansion created problems for the republic.

For decades, Rome alternated between the chaos of civil war & the authoritarian rule of a series of dictators. Eventually the republic collapsed and Augustus became emperor in 27 B.C.


Roman Legacy

  • Rome gave the world the idea of a republic
  • Rome’s written legal code – a collection of Roman laws called the 12 Tables that assured that all citizens had a right to the protection of the law. This is important because once laws are written down & agreed upon, the laws cannot be simply made up at the whim of a dictator.
  • Roman Law – The Romans tried to create a system of laws that could be universally applied throughout the Roman Empire. They believed that laws should be based on principles of reason & justice & should protect citizens & their property.
    • All citizens had the right to equal treatment under the law
    • A person was considered innocent until proven guilty
    • The burden of proof rested with the accuser rather than the accused