Athenian Democracy

Athenian Democracy

Athenian Democracy

Athenian Democracy


The fifth century BC witnessed not only the emergence of one of the first democracies, but also the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars. John Thorley provides a concise analysis of the development and operation of Athenian democracy against this backdrop. Taking into account both primary source material and the work of modern historians, Athenian Democracy examines:* the prelude to democracy* how the democractic system emerged* how this system worked in practice* the efficiency of this system of government* the success of Athenian democracy.Including a useful chronology and blibliography, this second edition has been updated to take into account recent research.


This book is designed for those who want to know how the Athenian democracy was devised and in particular how it operated during the fifth century BC. Most students of Greek history concentrate their attention on the fifth century, with the Persian Wars, the Athenian Empire, the Peloponnesian War and the great dramatists and historians as the main topics for study. But for the study of Athenian democracy the concentration on this period does present some problems, since we do in fact have more information about the workings of the democracy from the latter half of the fourth century BC, mainly because of numerous inscriptions from that period and also because we possess so many of Demosthenes' political speeches, from his first speech in 352 until his death in 322. Many general descriptions of Athenian democracy therefore tend to concentrate on how it operated in the time of Demosthenes, and in some respects this was rather different from what happened in the fifth century. This book, however, assumes that most students will want to know how the democracy worked in the period they are most likely to study, and whilst it does not aim to be an exhaustive study of Athenian democracy, it presents a chronologically based account of the development of Athenian government up to the end of the Peloponnesian War, linking this development with the main events and prominent people of the time, and it is based as far as possible on evidence which refers to the situation up to 404. The history, the society and the culture of Athens in the classical period cannot be properly understood without reference to the contemporaneous development of its democratic system of government, and it is hoped that this book will contribute to that understanding.



The transcription of Greek words and names is always a problem. In many cases Greek orthography has been followed, but well established English forms (e.g. Athens, Pericles) have been retained.


Where Greek words (other than names) are used, these are printed in italics, and the meaning is explained in the text.


All translations from Greek writers are by the author.

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