The main causes behind the development of democracy in ancient Greece
A key development in Ancient Greece is the establishment of democracy, albeit to a privileged section of the population. Athenian democracy was thus the earliest instance of this noble institution, whose example continues to inspire and encourage contemporary nation states in various parts of the world. Although, it might appear counter-intuitive at first, the fact that Ancient Greece was an established empire had what facilitated the flourishing of democracy during the period. For example, one of the major developments during the Hellenistic Age was the phenomenon of empire formation. Ancient Athens was truly one of the early models of capital imperialist cities, whose place would later be taken by Rome. Looking retrospectively, historians regard the empires of Romans and Greeks as pinnacles of human achievement. (Nikolaos, 2005, p.45)
Critics point out to the entrenched practices of slavery, brutality and exploitation that were part of the process of empire formation. But the emperors of Ancient Greece saw it in a benign light – equating it to “teaching civilized ways to primitive people”, “helping universal salvation through the spread of moral codes”, etc. More importantly, the political stability afforded by the sizeable empire made it easy for the nurturing of democratic processes within the
But, this is not to say that political dissent was always welcome by the rulers. The tragic execution of Socrates illustrates this point. Socrates was brought to trial by the democratic Athenian jury, which had scores to settle with prominent members of the previous regime. Socrates’ association with the previous regime made him a target of persecution, irrespective of the validity of the alleged charges. He was accused of undermining religious and state authority and for also corrupting the minds of Athenians. But in reality, Socrates made no deliberate attempts to bring down the religious, state authorities. Instead, he encouraged his students to adopt a critical approach to moral actions, also suggesting that the Athenian rulers themselves are not exempt from such scrutiny. This shows that hypocrisy and double standards were evident in Ancient Greece. And ostracism and political exile (if not public execution) were employed to keep the population and courtiers under control. (Austin, 1981, p.223)
Ackrill, J. L. (1981). Aristotle the Philosopher. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Bakalis Nikolaos, (2005), Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics Analysis and Fragments, Trafford Publishing ISBN 1-4120-4843-5
Austin, Michel M., The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest: a selection of ancient sources in translation, Cambridge University Press, 1981. ISBN 0521228298
Despite major achievements in the political front, Ancient Greece would come to be defined by its vibrant and path-breaking intellectual culture. Such luminary figures as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato would found what is now referred to as Western Philosophic thought, which has continued to grow and develop over the course of two thousand centuries. Let us now consider the contributions of Aristotle. Born in 384 BC and believed to have died on 322 BC, Aristotle remains the figure head of Ancient Greek philosophy. He also founded the Peripatetic school of philosophy, which remains in currency even today. Aristotle was widely regard during his time and continues to be revered through the ages. It is perhaps his common-sense approach to philosophy which has endeared and sustained him to academics and laypeople alike. While also expounding on such specialized subjects as physics, metaphysics, linguistics, biology and ethics, Aristotle theorized a great deal on poetry, music, theatre.