Guide The Greek City and its Institutions (History of Civilization)

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The first was the ekklesia, or Assembly, the sovereign governing body of Athens. Any member of the demos--any one of those 40, adult male citizens--was welcome to attend the meetings of the ekklesia, which were held 40 times per year in a hillside auditorium west of the Acropolis called the Pnyx.

Only about 5, men attended each session of the Assembly; the rest were serving in the army or navy or working to support their families. At the meetings, the ekklesia made decisions about war and foreign policy, wrote and revised laws and approved or condemned the conduct of public officials. Ostracism, in which a citizen could be expelled from the Athenian city-state for 10 years, was among the powers of the ekklesia.

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The group made decisions by simple majority vote. The second important institution was the boule, or Council of Five Hundred. The boule was a group of men, 50 from each of ten Athenian tribes, who served on the Council for one year.


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Unlike the ekklesia, the boule met every day and did most of the hands-on work of governance. It supervised government workers and was in charge of things like navy ships triremes and army horses. It dealt with ambassadors and representatives from other city-states. Its main function was to decide what matters would come before the ekklesia. In this way, the members of the boule dictated how the entire democracy would work.

Positions on the boule were chosen by lot and not by election. This was because, in theory, a random lottery was more democratic than an election: pure chance, after all, could not be influenced by things like money or popularity. The lottery system also prevented the establishment of a permanent class of civil servants who might be tempted to use the government to advance or enrich themselves.

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However, historians argue that selection to the boule was not always just a matter of chance. They note that wealthy and influential people--and their relatives--served on the Council much more frequently than would be likely in a truly random lottery. The third important institution was the popular courts, or dikasteria.


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Every day, more than jurors were chosen by lot from a pool of male citizens older than There were no police in Athens, so it was the demos themselves who brought court cases, argued for the prosecution and the defense and delivered verdicts and sentences by majority rule. There were also no rules about what kinds of cases could be prosecuted or what could and could not be said at trial, and so Athenian citizens frequently used the dikasteria to punish or embarrass their enemies.

Jurors were paid a wage for their work, so that the job could be accessible to everyone and not just the wealthy but, since the wage was less than what the average worker earned in a day, the typical juror was an elderly retiree.

Since Athenians did not pay taxes, the money for these payments came from customs duties, contributions from allies and taxes levied on the metoikoi. Around B. Modern representative democracies, in contrast to direct democracies, have citizens who vote for representatives who create and enact laws on their behalf. Canada, The United States and South Africa are all examples of modern-day representative democracies.

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But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. In around B. Most of all, Pericles paid artisans to build temples An ambiguous, controversial concept, Jacksonian Democracy in the strictest sense refers simply to the ascendancy of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic party after How will it end?

Moreover, city-states existed alongside the great empires of the Middle Ages. The formation and dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and its subsequent dissolution played a major role in the significance of these cities. Starting at this period, the city was ruled by the Bacchiads until their overthrow by Cypselus. Following victory, Corinth pursued and maintained its independence.

The location of the city allowed for extensive trade, earning it a reputation as one of the wealthiest Greek city-states with an estimated population of 90, by B.

Trade was conducted through two separate city ports along ancient trade routes. Corinth is home to one of the major architectural orders of ancient Greece, the same one that invented the Corinthian columns featured at the Supreme Court in Washington, D. In the wake of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Venetian city-state served as a refuge for Europeans from the mainland fleeing persecution. The salt trade served as its early financial backbone, though it went on to dominate maritime trade in the Mediterranean.

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The rise of the Venetian merchant class led to patronage of the arts and architecture that established the city as a beacon of culture. Venice accumulated extraordinary wealth throughout the High Middle Ages as it controlled trade between Europe and the Levant. Its maritime activities also led to the establishment of a war fleet that was employed during the crusades. Two hundred of these ships were instrumental in the capture of Syria during the first crusade.

The beginning of its downfall was marked by the opening of trade routes to the Americas, where it could no longer control the seas. Subsequent defeats by the Ottomans and later Napoleon led to the division of the city-state into several republics annexed to the French, Austrians, Cisalpines, and Ionians.

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From its early history, it was a prosperous hub of trade.