Greece for Kids
was Democracy like over 2400 years ago in ancient Athens?
For one thing, a form
of democracy in ancient Greece was only practiced in ancient Athens,
and only for about 100 years. It was an experiment. The people
really liked it. How it worked is that all citizens had to take an
active part in government (rule by many) if called on to do so. At
this time, citizens were free men. Women, children, and slaves were
not citizens, and thus could not participate or vote.
Each year, there was
a drawing. 500 names were drawn from a pool of all the citizens of
Athens. Those 500 citizens had to serve for one year. During that
year, they were responsible for making new laws and for changing old
laws as they saw fit. But, nothing they did became law until all the
citizens of Athens had a chance to vote yes or no. Majority ruled.
So these citizens were the law makers. But all citizens of ancient
Athens could vote before any change was made.
This form of
government is called a direct democracy. That famous Athenian,
Pericles, said: "It
is true that we (Athenians) are called a democracy, for the
administration is in the hands of the many and not the few, with
equal justice to all alike in their private disputes."
This form of government came to an
end in ancient Athens after Athens lost a war with Sparta. This was
the Peloponnesian War. For a while, Athens was ruled by a small
group of Spartans.
For a brief period of time, Athens
had a direct democracy, or a government in which all citizens
vote on rules and laws. We owe them a lot! It is one of their finest
A representative democracy,
like the government of the United States, is a government whose
citizens vote for representatives. These representatives create and
change the laws that govern the people.
Democracy Then and Now (BBC)