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Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 2 Lecture 2 Democracy of the 4th century

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  1. •To what extent was 4th century democracy different from that of the 5th century? •What do you think motivated those differences? •In what ways was democracy more definable in the 4th century than the 5th century?
  2. *tumbleweed* I'm going to deal with all three questions sorta en masse, because that's what I've been thinking about them for a while. With the introduction of graphe paranoimon and oaths to defend the democracy, Athenian democracy became quite static. Legal cases and the enshrinement of democracy within religious practises took away the impetus for changing the way the state worked - not that it was impossible, simply much more difficult. Furthermore, with the difficulties democracy had faced in 410 and 403, its advocates were likely more on their guard against any moves towards oligarchy. Finally, the exile of anyone unwilling to publicly support the democracy to the very borders of Attica will, one expects, have created an outwards display of fervour towards the system - partly manifested in things like the restoration and publishing of the laws, which clearly delineated what was and wasn't part of the democracy.
  3. The most notable difference is the collapse of the Athenian economical arche in the 5th century BC, which encouraged the settlement of kleruchs abroad and with ‘gating taxes’ in place at areas such as the Hellespont, enriched the citizen body. It is posited that without this level of tribute and mercantilism, that the Athenian democracy could not survive, or at least political participation would be drastically reduced. This is where the 4th century democracy is useful as a comparison. Not only does Athens not disintegrate in a political sense, but it actually becomes more ‘democratic’ at least in the manner that we would recognise one: division of powers, payment for the assembly et al. I don’t think arguments of ‘strength’ versus ‘weakness’ based on arbitrary divisions in historiography between the 5-4th centuries are at all appropriate. Athenian democracy was certainly different when comparing the eras, but it is in my view, the question of how the democracy continued to function and on what economic basis, that marks the change.
  4. Athenian democracy after losing the pelopponesian war was definitely more fragile. Losing the war must have shone badly on the democracy, increased doubts on the effectiveness of the system, that had previously failed spectacularly in handling the Sicilian expedition, and decided to execute most of Athen's brilliant generals after the battle of Arginusae. Furthemore, the Athenians had been exposed to different governmental systems after the 5th century, such as the oligarchical revolution and the 30 tyrants. While some may argue that this in fact enforced their patriotic belief in democracy, it at least introduced the city to different forms of government. Athens itself was a more fragile city, no longer possessing its previous naval power or financial ressources of the empire. However, even if the democracy and city were more easily overcome by foreign enemies (even during the 4th century Athens maintains an awful military record, losing against Macedon in the Lamian wars, only to do so again in the Chremonidean war decades later), internally they can be considered stronger than before. Every time Athens regains its independence, it reverts to its traditional form of goverment, showing the integrity of the democratic system.
  5. *•To what extent was 4th century democracy different from that of the 5th century?* There were a few reforms that show a difference in the democracy. For example, the assembly now convened on a much more regular basis, yet there was more of a filter on what the assembly could pass and what it couldn't. They also introduced pay for the attendees so loss of income wasn't a problem. *•What do you think motivated those differences?* Obviously the events of the last part of the fifth century had a profound effect. The democracy would obviously be shaky after the oligarchic coup and the reinstatement of Democracy. The defeat in the Peloponnesian war would obviously make a difference too, as Athens had lost it's empire, a lot of it's income, and possibly it's confidence. They lost citizens and a number of strategoi that they had executed (was this what caused the larger filter on the assembly's powers?). They do seem determined in maked their democracy work though, which I think say's something about their attitude - after all these events they reinstate it, and some of these reforms even look to be aimed at being more democratic??
  6. *To what extent was 4th century democracy different from that of the 5th century?* 4th century democracy appears to be more inclusive than 5th century democracy. The assembly ran four times a month rather just once which gave people more opportunities to attend the assembly. Meanwhile the introduction of pay for those attending the assembly would suggest that the lower class citizens who before would not have been able to afford leaving their livelihood or work, were now able to participate in the assembly and play a more important role in the democracy. In addition the democratic notice board in the centre of the Agora was a way to make all information central and available to the citizens (with the exception of those who would have been illiterate or infrequent visitors of Athens.) On the other hand, 4th century democracy encouraged the increasing power and influence of one particular individual even more than 5th century democracy did. Individuals could immediately pass decrees in the assembly with enough support. In retaliation if there was any opposition to a particular person or decree a person could take the person to the law courts under the process of graphe paranomon in order to reject this decree. Thus the power held by individuals was far more extensive than before. This is evident by the monuments honouring certain individuals such as Conon the general in 394 whose statue was placed in the Agora; the most central and prominent place Athens. Despite the power of particular individuals in the 5 th century, nothing like this had ever occurred until 4th century democracy.
  7. In answer to what motivated the changes in democracy in the 4th century, I think the loss of the Peloponnesian war had a huge impact on the Athenians confidence in their political system. The loss of the empire and resources externally meant change had to occur internally. The revolutions resulted from this need for change, and when these fell away democracy had to be soldified within Athens. By introducing oaths of loyalty and increased participation, this therefore created a stronger sense of belief in democracy and thus a stronger political system.
  8. •What do you think motivated those differences? I think that an important factor which determined changes of Athenian democracy is the fall of empire and imperialsim. The Second Athenian League cannot be considered as a real empire, as Athens could not exercise full control over their allies. The cut of imperial revenue made Athens reorganise their finances and their democratic system to function without a constant flow of tribute.

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