Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 2 Lecture 1 Key Questions: Revolution of 404/3 BC

You need to be logged in to post in this topic.
  1. •How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? •How satisfactory a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC? •What do you think are the key differences in the nature of the democracy pre and post the revolution of 404/3 BC?
  2. 1. The threats against Athenian democracy by the end of the 5th century cannot be ignored. Internally it would appear that aristocratic Athenians had gained enough support to challenge democracy, but not enough to overthrow it entirely suggesting that the majority of citizens still favoured that system of government. However the external threat of Sparta could quite possibly have wiped out Athens entirely at the culmination of the Peloponnesian War and it was only through the clemency of Pausanius that the counter-revolution of 403 BC did not end in failure. 2. While the events of 410 BC did not really have a satisfactory conclusion until the end of the Peloponnesian War, after 403 BC it really does look like Athens had doubled down on their form of democracy. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the oath of Demophantos, a veneration of Athenian ideals that would force citizens to put their democracy before anything else. 3. It would appear that the key change brought on by the revolutions of 404/403 BC was more one of attitute than of policy but I am yet to study the period in detail.
  3. •How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? Faith in democracy was bound to faith in Athens; so the Spartan victory in 405 BC was absolutely detrimental to overall belief in the running of Athens. Sparta forcibly installed the 30 tyrants, and also took down Athenian safeguards like the defensive walls and the fleet; these were very serious threats to democracy, due to the effective deconstruction of many of Athens' characteristic institutions. •How satisfactory a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC? The re-instatement of democracy was rather unsatisfactory in the sense that it was very different to its previous incarnation (see question 3). Laws were frantically republished; those who had fought in battle 'for the democracy' were publicly honoured; everyone was told to forget what had just happened. This version of democracy seemed much more cautious and self-preserving, and yet also very fragile. •What do you think are the key differences in the nature of the democracy pre and post the revolution of 404/3 BC? The oath of Demophantos, which had to be taken by all male citizens, is good evidence for the altered nature of democracy at this point. Nothing so severe as having to kill, or at least disgrace, anyone who challenges democracy in Athens had ever been sworn before. Before the revolution, democracy was not harshly policed, nor were citizens expected to defend the regime to the death. There is no evidence that this oath was refused by anyone, since in this new era there was a 'safe haven' for supporters of oligarchy in Eleusis. This bizarre attitude of - on the face of it - violence, yet allowing usurpers to go free, is indicative of the state's confusion within itself as to how best to reinstate democracy; forcefully or peacefully. The key differences in pre and post revolution democracy in Athens are: before the revolution, democracy was seen as freedom, a liberating choice, and no-one would be criticised for the exact extent of their support; after the revolution, democracy was seen as 'the right choice', one which the state required everyone to swear by, and yet it was a regime that some had now disregarded, choosing oligarchy over their home city by moving away.
  4. *How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century?* Regardless of how serious the threats were to Athenian democracy at the end of the 5th century, Athens lacked a decent defence for any threat. With the mass deaths from the plague and the Sicilian expedition, Athens was no longer equipped with the vast number of male citizens required to manage the democratic system; therefore any threat to democracy was serious. The fact that Alcibiades as a powerful individual had to keep switching sides proves that opposition and threats to democracy were no longer small enough for powerful individuals( like him) to persuade the citizens to act on their behalf. When Sparta forced Athens to abandon democracy and implement an oligarchy they were forced to oblige as they no longer had the military and naval power to stand up against Sparta, as they did before. *How satisfactory of a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC?* Aspects of the reinstatement of democracy such as the rebuilding of the agora and publishing all of the laws were extremely symbolic and would assure the citizens that democracy was now going to be permanent. However these actions do not necessarily suggest that the average male Athenian citizen would be content with this, it is difficult to know how satisfied Athenian citizens would be with the re-instatement of democracy. The oath and the agreement of reconciliation represented the end of civil unrest which is something that citizens would be glad about. Moreover the supporters of democracy would be glad to swear an oath in favour of it. However those in favour of democracy would surely resent the fact that most of those who opposed democracy were not being punished. Meanwhile those who opposed democracy would not be in favour of swearing an oath which prioritised the defence of democracy above everything. Therefore there would still be lingering hostility for a few generations. Despite these limitations to the reinstallation of democracy, it was satisfactory to an extent it is just difficult to assess how the average male citizen would feel.
  5. #1 - I actually find the interesting question is how there was a threat to democracy in the first place in 410. I mean, an aristocratic coup that succeeded because they had sufficient popular support is...kinda democratic. Did they perhaps enlist the services of mercenaries (those Scythian archer policemen we were discussing wandering about Athens?), or actually make a threat of physical violence towards the people themselves using their own horses and weapons? Overthrowing a group of even 5000 people in the Assembly doesn't seem very straightforward for a group of aristocrats. They could have used their wealth and position as landowners to pressure people outside the city into helping them suppress the democracy, but within the city itself I can't imagine there was a feeling that they owned anyone. The success of the 410 revolution is arguably always in doubt. That kind of fast takeover must have involved some show of force or fiscal pressure, because otherwise they'd just be laughed off the Pnyx. Had they succeeded in getting control of the army, they might have stood a chance of upholding that force, but one wonders how they ever hoped to do so. A hoplite army and a fleet of poor rowers would inevitably be heavily personally and culturally invested in the democracy (and for the rowers there was the fact that the democracy paid them), and while they of course needed a single leader, I don't see them just lying down and accepting a coup, especially as carrying it off would almost certainly involve killing some of their current commanders. Perhaps Alcibiades could have persuaded them to serve the oligarchy, just as he actually persuaded them to follow him and (eventually) restore the democracy, but it's worth wondering whether his leadership would have seemed so appealing if the soldiers had not just thrown off an aristocratic takeover attempt.
  6. 1. While aristocrats and demagogues would try to utilise such problems and discontent to their own advantage, with or without the greater good of the state in mind, it appears that democracy as an idea was by this stage intimately tied to Athens. So, seizing power or maintaining an oligarchic form of government was really unable to dislodge the Athens’ democratic identity. 2. Somewhat undemocratic to bring back a system which had done so much damage to the state and society and to bring it back regardless of the majority of public sentiment. I think 410 and 403 offer a poor comparison to Athen’s democratic heyday 3. Certainly one of Athenian perception of democracy, but I am not really sure how I would define ‘Athenian’ here either. Demophantos’ oath really bound the city to the democratic ideal, for better or for worse – it seems to suggest the feeling that, by now, democracy was synonymous with Athens and there was no going back.
  7. *How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century?* These threats were significantly serious as, on top of the general feelings of weakness and discontent with the system after the failure of the Sicilian expedition, it is important that after around 100 years of democracy being in place, the current citizen population was made up of a generation who would take democracy for granted so were unlikely to take theats seriously, or even be tempted to seek out alternatives to democracy if it doesn't seem to be working very well. Ultimately, the Athenian democratic system was in a dismantled state twice within the last decade of the fifth century, which suggests that, even if it had the resources to be put back into place, the threats to it were serious enough to change the system, at least for a little while. *How satisfactory a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC?* Considering the difficulties of drawing together people who less than a year beforehand had been fighting in a state which did not allow for people to hide from past grievances, the re-instatements of both years worked fairly well - both lasting longer than the actual non-democratic period had. However to what extent all the steps taken the recover democracy (i.e. the oath of Demophantos, republication of laws, honouring of heroes, and rebuilding of the Agora) may have simply seemed as steps to cover things up and try and smooth things over; it would be impossible for most citizens to just forget and forgive a man who had recently murdered someone of his family in a bitter ideological struggle. *What do you think are the key differences in the nature of the democracy pre and post he revolution of 404-403 BC?* It seems much more fragile in terms of general opinion; all the steps to rebuild the democratic institutions reveal insecurities in the system - having to offer a very serious oath which promises to "kill" anyone who attempts to overthrow democracy (something the fifth century never had), and the physical institutions, such as the new Bouleuterion, being expanded or rebuilt seems like a desire to show how impressive democracy is - despite having been overthrown twice within the past decade or so.
  8. How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? The threats to Democracy late in the 5th Century were quite serious because the two coups in 411 and 404. Both ended up as rogue governments and did not follow through on their constitutional promises, they began as responses from the Athenian elite to what they saw as the inherent arbitrariness of government by the masses. Despite been established for about a century, it seems democracy was still not fully accepted by some of the elite members of society, and until it was, there is always a threat to a limited extant to democracy.
  9. 1) How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? They were quite serious. Democracy in Athens could only be successful if the state as a whole was successful. Following the destructions during the Peloponnesian war and the plague, Athens was at a crises moment in its history. The city's vunerable state allowed for individuals to become disgruntled with the current political system and thus allow for the revolutions of 411 and 404. Moreover the fact that after democracy was brought back to Athens the citizens were made to swear the Oath of Domophantos, shows the reality that democracy was under threat. By making the citizens of Athens to swear to be loyal to democracy over their own family and friends, Athens was protecting itself politically using religion. Something that was able to help secure democracy in the 4th century.
  10. •How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? I think that when a city is actually overthrown for any period of time, and its form of government is replaced, it is worth taking the threat seriously. Whether or not there was any way of increasing the longevity of the oligarchic replacement system is unknown, as there seems to have been enough support for Athens within its own population for democracy, but the real issue was Sparta. There was obviously a conflict of interests between two Spartan elites, and had they been on the same political level, democracy may have been removed from Athens for an even longer period. However, Sparta's actions seemed to both remove and reinstate democracy, so had they remained impartial throughout, perhaps there would have been less of a threat. •How satisfactory a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC? This question really depends on whether you believe a democracy was achieved by Athens pre-revolution, but the oath that was sweared by all citizens regarding the protection of their political regime certainly suggests that they were not prepared to be in a situation where a revolution was a plausible concept again. However, this, despite seeming paranoid, does represent the intention of Athens to create a strong and powerful democracy, certainly when considering the last 100 years or so of conflict with the Persians and Spartans, both of whom opted for a different system, so I think it would have been considered satisfactory by the Athenian citizens. •What do you think are the key differences in the nature of the democracy pre and post the revolution of 404/3 BC? Mainly the almost jingoistic attitude towards its preservation; the aggressive stance that would have been taken against anyone who questioned democracy. Before, during the Delian League and the build-up to the Peloponnesian Wars, it does not seem unfair to comment that Athens was aggressive in its attitudes towards others, but it was now willing to take that own attitude against anyone, including Athenian citizens, who questioned the concept of democracy. It would have been interesting to know who would have actually believed the oath they were taking, and if there were any accounts of perhaps family members turning in each other, possibly to settle other conflicts such as divorce or adultery?
  11. The threats were certainly very serious. Sparta had the potential to inflict serious damage on the Athenian democracy after the Peloponnesian war but did not prevent it from re-emerging. Despite the aristocratic support against democracy, large support for democracy did exist in Athens. The re-instatement of democracy was both satisfactory and un-satisfactory. Democracy was embraced by Athens and those who supported democracy during the time of the thirty tyrants were held in high honour by the city, but those who fought against it could not gain full Athenian citizenship. This must have created bitter feelings amongst those in the assembly. Furthermore people had to forget the crimes committed against people such as murder during the time of the thirty tyrants, which would further increase tension between Athenian citizens who fought for democracy and those who wished to see it fall.
  12. *How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century?* After the fall of Athens during the Pelopennesian War, it would seem that there was a real attempt by their enemies to impose an oligarchic system in order to suppress the democracy at Athens. Looking solely at this, it would seem that democracy was either effectively dead or otherwise non-functional. However, it does seemt that the people of Athens were attached enough to democracy that once external pressure relented, they were willing to return to democratic principles. *How satisfactory a re-instatement of democracy do you think was achieved in 410 and 403 BC?* Fundamentally, the 410 form of democracy seems to have been unsatisfactory enough that it was overthrown though whether this was because of its own failings, or because of internal tensions that it couldn't reconcile is debatable. The fact that an oath was put into place requiring people to kill those who threaten democracy as well highlights the fact that the Athenians thought of this new form of government as well as being democratic, regardless of whether it actually was or not.
  13. I think the threats to Athenian democracy were serious, for even if the populace were in favour of moving away from it, this shows a serious lack of faith in the system. A stable democracy relies on it being successful, and when this was undermined militarily there seemed to be a quick desire to move away from it. This can still be seen reflected in modern societies, when in times of crisis there tends to be a shift towards extremist parties who limit democratic freedoms.
  14. I think although the reinstatement of democracy would have been perfectly fine, what had happened over the last few years would have weakened it's foundations a lot. As was discussed in the lecture, we have people who possibly could have been rivals during the revolution, suddenly being forced to cooperate. I think the confidence in their democracy would have weakened, and only moreso after losing the Peloponnesian War.
  15. 1. How serious were the threats to Democracy at Athens in the last decade of the 5th century? Initially it is impossible not to realise that the threats to Democracy in the last decade of the 5th century BC were not serious to an extent. This is because the loss of the Peloponnesian War along with the plague had left Athens in turmoil, leaving its democracy vulnerable to revolution - which did happen. However, a point to be consider is that, whilst the oligarchy took power for a period of time, it is probably unlikely that it would have lasted. This is because poorer citizens hah had a taste of power and influence in democracy and it is unlikely that they would have remained content being ruled by others for too long. The fact that they voted for oligarchy is not necessarily surprising, because people often take to extremist views in times of crisis (in this case choosing to follow others in hope they could lead the way through the turmoil). But once the crisis was over and Athens was once again stable, there would always have been a strong chance that democracy would have been reinstated.
  16. 1- Internal threats to democracy were more prevalent than ever after the Spartan defeat of Athens. The defeat shook not only their belief in their leaders but in the very foundations of the city and the fact that just 30 oligarchs were able to over rule the assembly's core beliefs and place them selves in charge shows just how serious not only the treat to democracy was, but how shaky the foundations of democracy were. 3- The key difference to me was the changing nature of democratic principles. Pre-404/3 democracy in Athens was about freedom, more specifically the freedom of choice for the masses. After 404/3 and the Oath of Demophantos democracy at Athens, to me, had actually taken on some oligarchical characteristics- forcing citizens to take an oath to defend democracy at any cost or be forced to leave Athens. How many citizens would have taken that oath out of fear or reprisal from other citizens or family members? The taking of that oath then further limits a citizens democratic right to choose what he believed in in the future if that belief went against democracy but was in the best interests of the city, and so detracts from the ideals set out in pre404/3 democratic Athens.

Are you sure?

Are you sure?

Forum followers

Follower data is not currently available.

Search results