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Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 1 Lecture 6: The Democratic System: Key Questions

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  1. 3) Although the consensus seems to be that the system in place was transparent enough to ensure the absence of corruption, there are several accusations made against Demosthenes in particular relating to misconduct. The problems with such accusations, such as Aischines' that Demosthenes gained his place on the boule by bribery (In Ctes. 62) and persuaded friends to make proposals on his behalf that they did not fully understand (In Ctes. 125), is that they are often made by political opponents and thus contain a significant bias. It is ultimately impossible to know what went on behind closed doors, but there was certainly some degree of transparency epitomised by the location of the boule, a point that has already been raised.
  2. I agree pretty much agree with what everyone in the forum had said, that that boule etc would have the majority of the power, but that doesn't mean that the people didn't have a strong influence, but I do thank that that is all it was. They couldn't choose what to vote on. I wouldn't say they were "on their own". If someone was to speak in the assembly, I like to think they would have some support coming from somewhere. Would there be much sense of kinship in the demes, or were their connections purely political?
  3. The boule, tasked with setting the agenda and putting forward motions to be discussed, was a key filter or discussions and determined the direction a debate would take. It would determine if an agenda would even get off the ground. I think that institutions such as the boule, pritany, assembly, law courts, all made participation possible to a degree, and may have even encouraged such participation. I think that a citizen was more ‘on their own’ if they considered that they had no stake worth participating in the government machinery. Compare the Attic peasant to the city-dwelling aristocrat. As far as epigraphic records seem to show us, the Athenians were very zealous in keeping records and making administration accountable.
  4. Where did power lie in Atehnian democracy. As has already been raised, the power can be seen in the boule of 500 who decided the matters to be discussed by the assembly. However if the assembly voted in contradiction to the boule on major matters, such as whether or not to go to war, then the assembly would have the final say. Therefore the power in Athenian democracy was evenly spread and lay in the hands of the citizens, as should be the case, due to the numerous reforms throughout the sixth and fifth century BC, shifting the powers from the aristocracy to the demos.
  5. *Where did power lie in Atehnian democracy?* I think power was with the citizen body, or at the very least theoretically was. Most people have said before that the power was with the boule which is true to an extent but, as the Assembly could vote against decisions by the boule on major matters, there was an even spread of power, though whether all citizens could afford to travel to take part is another problem with the reality of the system. The decision making context of the Assembly and courts also allowed for the dominance of key figures who had excellent rhetorical skill and were able to persuade the masses. You could say there was an overreliance on demagogues and rhetoric but that is not to say the masses were ignorant. I would say that the masses had a large amount of power and were part of a social network that was also a network of knowledge, but were prone to persuasion from Athens’ ‘first citizens’.
  6. To what extent were citizens ‘on their own’ within Athenian democracy? It is important to consider with this question, as Bradley did earlier, that for those who lived in the outer demes of the city, they would have to set aside at least a day's travel to attend any meeting of the Assembly. They would then have to find a place to stay and then travel back the following day etc. The inconvenience is undeniably apparent. Even though Athenian democracy encouraged all of its members to participate in the running of state politics, the reality is that the agrarian populace were to some extent on their own since they could not afford the time to actively participate. *See: Aristotle, Politics, 1319a24*
  7. In this post <> Bradley Waters wrote: > To what extent were citizens ‘on their own’ within Athenian democracy? > > Interestingly enough I was thinking about this the other day in > relation to, admittedly later, Attic New Comedy. Menander’s Dyskolos > continuously draws a contrast between the ‘city-dwellers’ i.e. those with > wealth, who can afford to actively engage in politics, and ‘country-bumkins’ > – the ἰδιώτης who had to continuously work under harder circumstances. One > does wonder if there is more reality to this contrast than just a humorous > topos. We talked in the lecture about how citizens on the outlying demes > would have had to work 20 miles to get to Athens (then somewhere to stay, > another day in accommodation etc.); unless the state offered some sort of > shuttle service (did they?) it is hard to imagine that farmers like > Menander’s Gorgias would have had any active political participation. To > what extent were these individuals overlooked is I think, an important > development to the aforementioned question. > > > > cf. Menander, Dyskolos. Line. 20-5: > > When things were so bad that nothing > more could happen, and his life was bitter, pain upon pain, > his wife left him and went back to live with her son, > the one from her first marriage. > *He had a little farm, very small, here* > *next door, where he supports — now not very well — * > *his mother, himself, and a single faithful servant* > *whom he inherited from his father. A fine young man* > *the boy is already, with a mind beyond his years:* > *the experience of troubles hastens maturity.* > > I'm not sure if your point is completely valid. I can't remember if at any point the distinction between the city-dwellers and country-bumpkins has any political implications in Menander. The fact that Gorgias had to work hard on the field doesn't tell us anything particularly new about the life of Athenian citizens.
  8. Where did power lie in the Athenian democracy? The boule definitely had some say in how the country was run, but it seems that at any one time perhaps the most power lay with the group staying in the tholos, which would be an emergency response unit in charge of decisions in difficult times. To what extent were citizens ‘on their own’ within Athenian democracy? There was some safety in numbers in that people would have felt more confident when speaking with a group. But proposing legislation as an individual would be quite risky given the possibility of being punishes for proposing a law seen as 'bad' or undemocratic. What degree of transparency did the system have? 2-1 in Transparency Studies.

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