The Ancient Athenian Government is known for forming one of history’s first known democratic governments. Although the Athenian democracy was not a perfect democracy and only lasted a little over one hundred years, it has served as the stepping stones for the American society. In fact, the very word democracy derives from the ancient civilization with demos meaning people and kratos meaning power. While at the time there were many other democratic governments, the Athenian democracy proved to be the most powerful and influential of that time.
In all technicality, Athens did have a democratic government in letting its citizens have the most power in deciding laws and electing leaders. It was however, a completely different system than what Americans are accustomed to today. There were three political bodies where citizens would all gather at once, normally ranging in the thousands. These included the assembly, the council, and the courts. Any male citizen of age could participate in the assembly and was required to do so. The assembly took part in making executive pronouncements, electing officials, legislation, and handling political crimes.
Normally, a jury would consist of around 1500 people which made decision making much more difficult. In order to participate in voting or anything else concerning decisions for the government, the person had to be an Athenian citizen. In order to be a citizen in Athens, one had to be an adult male owing no debt, and had completed their military training. Women, slaves, foreigners, and children were not allowed to vote, which can be compared to America’s earlier democratic views. While there are many differences between the Athenian Democracy and the American Democracy, they can also be easily compared.
Although juries were a lot larger than today’s, Athens allowed a jury to decide a person innocent or guilty in the courts. Women and slaves were not until recently allowed to vote. Being that we do not have slaves today and women share equal rights with men, that has since changed. People under the age of 18 are still not allowed to vote. Like in Athenian times, foreigners are not allowed to vote unless they become American citizens. Voters are allowed in American to vote for the leading officials and are required to participate in jury duty.
There are several branches in today’s government system, just like in Athenian times, although consisting of a lot less people. In today’s democracy, people who serve in the government must be voted to office by the people. The Athenian democracy served as a huge stepping stone for America. As one of the first and most powerful democratic societies, Athens has influenced a lot of America’s decisions on how to run a democratic government. The mistakes and achievements of the ancient civilization of Athens can be learned from so that America does not repeat history but can grow as the most powerful democratic society in all of time.