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Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 2 Lecture 4: Democracy after Philip and Alexander the Great

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  1. •When did Athenian democracy end? •What kind of democracy was possible in the Hellenistic world? •To what extent could Philip and Alexander the Great be called supporters of democracy?
  2. *When did Athenian democracy end?* Athenian democracy appears to have officially ended in 322 BC following the death of Alexander in the previous year. Alexander was happy for the Athenians to continue governing their state in the way they chose so long as they remained loyal to him. Therefore after his death Athens sought to escape Macedon influence and was subsequently crushed and their democracy was removed. However I would argue that Athenian democracy ended earlier than 322 as all though democracy was still present in Athens it was not necessarily ‘Athenian democracy.’ For many years Athens was divided as they were confused as to whether they ought to reject or accept the authority of Philip of Macedon. Before their submission to Philip Demosthenes tried many attempts to undermine Philip and finally Athens was forcibly entered into the league of Corinth. Thus although during this time democracy was still active in Athens it was not the Athenian democracy that was present in the 5 th century or even the beginning of the 4th century. Athens was being influenced by a foreign power which was interfering with their internal relations thus the democracy was essentially breaking down anyway by the time it officially ended in 322 BC. * * *•To what extent could Philip and Alexander the Great be called supporters of democracy?* Philip and Alexander were supporters of anything that could help them to achieve and maintain power. Therefore by allowing individual polies to keep their own system of government and preventing polies from interfering with each other it meant that no-one would oppose their power or want to leave the league of Corinth. Thus Philip and Alexander did support democracy but their motifs had nothing to do with democracy itself but rather the belief that by allowing Athens to keep democracy they would be more likely to accept Macedonian influence.
  3. •What kind of democracy was possible in the Hellenistic world? There are multiple ways to describe different 'kinds' of democracy, but when thinking about the ancient world specifically, some of the most important features that affect the sort of democracy would be geographic location, political allegiances with other poleis', military strength, etc. Ideally, all of these would improve (exc. geographic location, which was obviously fixed) under a democracy, but a polis seems to have needed a level of security before already attempting a democracy. It is also possible to contrast the kind of democracy where rational thoughts and tiredness with the current political regime leads to a political revolution (a democracy) with the kind of democracy where it has become a part of their identity, and irrational thought takes precedence in order to restore what has been 'taken' from the polis (508 BC vs. 403 BC). •To what extent could Philip and Alexander the Great be called supporters of democracy? There is evidence that suggests both support and opposition to democracy for these individuals; in terms of opposition, they themselves were kings, and on a personal/selfish level, obviously benefitted from the status they achieved through a monarchy. If they supported democracy fully, then the question "Why not introduce democracy to Macedonia?" could be asked. However, I believe, similarly to the Persians before them, that by 'invading', but allowing the politics of a polis to remain the same, it not only proved a favourable alternative to the citizens of the polis, but also led to less work for themselves, considering the expansive mood of Philip and Alexander. In terms of supporting democracy, the greatest example is surely Alexander's reclaiming of the Tyrranicides from the Persians after the sacking of Athens in 480/479 BC. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were arguably two of the most associated figures with democracy, and Alexander's favourable action in returning them shows that he understood the importance of their symbolic nature (despite having a copy of them in the agora before the original returned).

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