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Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 1 Lecture 5 Democracy and Imperialism in 500-450: Key Questions

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  1. I still havent formed an ultimate opinion regarding the first two questions that I would be confident in sharing, however, in response to the third question, I would state that Pericles was in no way the "master" of athenian democracy. His changes, sepcifically the paying of jury members, suggests to me the reinstigation of bribable aspects into the constitution and his accumliation of power, as Athens sole leader, ultimately goes against what reforms had been put in place that began athenian democracy by those such as Cleisthenes. The idea that one man should have held such power in Athens goes against the whole point of athenian democracy. We must credit Cleisthenes and to some extent Euripedes as the masters of athenian democracy, not a man, whom I dont deny helped further some aspects of democracy, who ultimately undermined its fundamental purpose.
  2. 1. In this period it is best visible how the development of democracy and imperialism went hand in hand. It might suggest that Athenian democracy was an uncontrollable system, where if only someone persuaded the demos to do something, that thing happened. I guess it was not very difficult to persuade people to expand their empire for the sake of gaining glory of the city and increasing their own wealth. 2. It was a final move in the shift of power from the artistocracy to the people and removed, at least in theory, any exclusiveness of power. In my view, it more formalised the democracy than actually introduced something ground breaking. 3. The relationship between the demos and its leaders is continuously explored by the Athenian drama, which means that it was not clear and simple. The notion of people being easily controlled by demagogues and political leaders working within the dsemocratic structures is very strong. The fact that Perikles was actually able to fraud the funds from the Delian league to pursue his building programme and no-one was able to do anything to him personally, suggests that he had a truly extraordinary position in the Athenian politics.
  3. •What do you make of Athens’ foreign policy decisions in the 470s -450s? Athenian foreign policy during these decades is defined by their aggression after the peace of Kallias. Thucydides explicitly explains the purpose for the formation of the Delian League was to seek revenge for the damage which Persia had caused to the Greeks, and peace with the Empire rendered this justification void. Continued aggression by Athens after this suggests they had become an imperialist power, using their fleet to intimidate and dominate lesser city states. •To what extent do you think Ephialtes’ reforms made a real difference to workings of the Athenian political system? Ephialtes’ main impact on the Athenian political system was his downgrading of the Aeropagus to essentially a homicide court. The marginalising of such a staple of oligarchic power within the Athenian constitution, which had largely resisted the democratic reforms of previous centuries, was at the very least symbolically important. More power was afforded to the demos, leading to a greater, more complete realisation of democracy. •How much was Pericles the master of the Athenian democracy? I honestly have no idea.
  4. *How much was Pericles the master of the Athenian democracy?* Pericles mastered democracy, by manipulating loopholes in the system that allowed him to have great power. Plutarch tells us that Pericles was strategos for many years. As strategoi were elected by lot not vote, their talent and ability were taken into account. The demos trusted Pericles' ability, and voted democratically to re-elect him. In this way, Pericles mastered democracy by having almost sole authority, but achieving it through the democratic system rather than enforcing a tyranny.
  5. 1. The most obvious feature of Athenian foreign policy in this period is a shift towards imperialism, marked by the increasing demands they made of the Delian league who suffered the most from Athens' assertions of power. Indeed after peace was made with Persia (itself something of a success with regards to foreign policy) the league was largely unnecessary and it's continuation shows some greed on the part of the Athenians. 2. Ephialtes' reforms undoubdetly changed the way democractic Athens functioned, providing a fairer system in particular with regards to the law courts, and were ultimately seen as radical enough to get him assassinated. However the reforms could be seen more as an improvement on an existing system, rather than the kind of revolutionary change seen in 508 BC. 3. The consensus seems to be that Pericles was very much the first citzen of Athens during his lifetime and this is largely true. He oversaw a remarkable building programme, achieved great success in the government and introduced some important changes, such as jury pay. Nonetheless it should be remembered that Pericles achieved this power through the democratic system and no special honours of offices were granted to him; his success was legitimate and earned through his talents.
  6. 1. Athens’ foreign policy decisions in the 470s – 450s took a turn from an apparent mutually beneficial relationship under the banner of the Delian League to an aggressive form of oppressive imperialism. The best example of the boisterous policy was the issue concerning Samos; Thucydides reports that as soon as complaints and unrest was detected, Athens sailed there, took 50 boys as hostages, set up a democracy, installed a garrison on Lemnos using the men from Samos and then left for Athens. This sent a clear message of power the will to use it. The expansive imperialism eventually led to the Peloponnesian War (indirectly or otherwise) due to its irritating Sparta – therefore the foreign policy decisions were not beneficial for Athens in the long run. 2. The 6000 men from which the lot was chosen cannot have been equally representative. From the jury of 500 selected we have to assume that many would not be able to travel to Athens to perform their duty, and if they did it would have a detrimental effect on their business elsewhere – therefore in terms of it becoming a more democratic system the positive effects of Ephialtes is questionable. In a sense, it favoured the rich city dwellers even more under this system; they were readily available to attend the jury but were doing so under the guise of direct democracy, perhaps making their power more extreme. Before pay was introduced for jurors under Pericles, this system had serious flaws that wouldn’t have made too much actual difference in terms of introducing true representative democracy. Though, it cannot be ignored that the shift of power towards the people’s court was ultimately a positive move, one that led to actual direct democracy later.
  7. The peace of Kallias can be seen as necessary in order to avoid future conflict whilst the attack on Thasos can be seen as unecessary and purely done out of a desire to aquire the silver mines. Ephialtes' reforms handed more power to the Athenian people whilst lessoning the influence of rich aristocrats and limiting the power of the Areopagus. Pericles was largely the master of Athenian democracy as he remained general for many years. He was able to get away with spending huge sums of the Delian leagues funds on his lavish bulding programme. Pericles also ostracised many of his political rivals such as Cimon and was able to manipulate the public through his oratorary skills.. However Pericles' citizenship laws failed to bring benefits to the Athenain citizens so this questions his status as master of the Athenain democracy.
  8. *How much was Pericles the master of the Athenian democracy? * There is no doubt that Pericles was the outstanding citizen. Thucydides himself even called him the “first citizen”. He was an excellent orator, he was hugely successful in his political career and he was loved by the people. Therefore, he enjoyed power beyond all of the other citizens. Yet, the title of "master of democracy" in my mind, almost has tyrannical overtones. However, as many have stated previously, Pericles achieved this power through the democratic system. He was elected to the position of general presumably because the people believed in what he stood for.
  9. 2) The restriction of the powers of the Areopagus to matters of homicide and religion and the transference of their former authority to the Dikasteria certainly afforded the demos more power, at least to some extent. However, although the 500 jury members were chosen by lot, we must consider the issue of participation and the extent to which that was possible for all citizens. As has already been stated in other posts, while Ephialtes' reforms made some degree of difference, they were not as radical a progression as the reforms of 508BC.
  10. To what extent do you think Ephialtes’ reforms made a real difference to workings of the Athenian political system? Many believe Ephialtes' reforms show the first signs of radical democracy Athens was famous for. He introduced pay for public officeholders and reduced the property qualifications for holding a public office, making politics easier for the less wealthy to get into. He also attacked the areopagus, the only really ruling oligarchical element left in Athens, he did not completely remove all their powers, but certainly after these reforms the power was firmly in the hands of the boule and assembly. As a result of this he was assassinated suggesting that his reforms did make a real difference, and the aristocracy felt so threatened they removed him.

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