Over 2400 years ago, the famous Greek
general, 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
Only in Athens, and only for a short
time, "rule by many" meant that all citizens had to be
willing to take an active part in government. That was the law.
Each year, 500 names were drawn from
all the citizens of Athens. Those 500 citizens had to serve for one
year as the law makers of ancient Athens.
All citizens of Athens
were required to vote on any new law that this body of 500 citizens
created. One man, one vote, majority ruled. Women, children, and
slaves were not citizens, and thus could not vote.
After the Peloponnesian War with
Sparta, which Athens lost, once again Athens was ruled by a
small group of people. But for a brief period of about 100
years, Athens was a democracy. It was not a perfect democracy,
but it established the roots of democracy. We owe Athens a lot!
Direct Democracy: A government in which people vote
to make their own rules and laws
Representative Democracy: A government in which
people vote for representatives. The representatives make rules
and laws that govern themselves and the people.
Democracy Then and Now (BBC)