Good Argumentative Essay On Ancient Greek Democracy And Modern Democracy

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Democracy, Government, Politics, Athens, Greece, History, United States, America

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/27

Ancient Greek Democracy and Modern Democracy

Democracy as a form of government in Ancient Greece is the basis for modern democracy as seen in the United States of America. The origins of the word “democracy” come from the Greek “demos”, people and “kratos” or power. Democracy can be defined very simply as “rule by the people”. After the founding of a democracy in America in 1776, many countries followed suit: France, Switzerland and Belgium. Today almost half of the world’s nations are considered democracies, in the broadest sense of the word. Democracy has become the predominant and preferred form of government in modern times and its roots can be attributed to the Ancient Greek civilization.
Democracy in Ancient Greece had the same idea of government for the people and by the people but “people” as defined by the Ancient Greeks needs to be defined. In Athens, men of power and wealth were the members of society who constituted the democracy. Women, children, slaves and alien residents had no vote in the government. However, the men that did, participated directly in government activities and decisions. In 594 B.C., Solon put forth laws such as: Athenians could not enslave other Athenians; judicial proceedings and assigned societal rank with wealth not birth right. Cleisthenes in response to the dictatorship that had seized power in Athens, created the first constitution to outline government. The system he proposed consisted of three parts: ekklesia; boule and dikasteria. The ekklesia wrote the laws and presided over foreign policy. The boule was a council that was made up of representatives from the ten Athenian tribes. Finally, the dikasteria which was the courts where citizens argued cases in front of a jury. This general type of a government consisting of separate branches can be seen in many modern democracies.
It must be noted, that democracy had its birthplace and success in Athens, not all of Greece. Ancient Greece was composed of city-states, each with their own form of government. Corinth as well as Sparta were an oligarchy for many years. The ancient Mycenaeans were a monarchy. Hippias was a dictator in Athens before the rise of democracy. The Ancient Greek civilization as we know it endured from 1200 B.C. with the Mycenaeans until 400 A.D. after rule by Rome and the rise of Christianity. Through those years Greece saw many forms of government and shifts in power. Democracy grew out of Greece’s Classical Period from 500 B.C. to 300 B.C. This time frame was when Greece was at its height of power and culture.
Renaissance Europe would take an interest in the study of the Ancient Greeks. The ideas and philosophies put forth by the likes of Aristotle and Socrates were sought after and studies by the intellects of the Renaissance across Europe. The Catholic Church which had been in power for centuries was now be questioned and challenged. The Reformation saw thousands leave the Church under the guidance of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Most of Europe was governed by monarchies. Exploration led to the discovery of the Americas and led to conquest of South America by the Spaniards and the colonization of North America by the English and French. Philosophers of the Enlightenment continued in the quest for knowledge and truth that was initiated by intellects of the Renaissance. The ideas of philosophers such as John Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire all questioned mankind, the reason for his existence, society and his role in it and governments role. These thinkers and their ideas made a very natural connection between the nature of man, society and government with the democracy once practiced by the Ancient Greeks.
The leaders of the American Colonies in 1776 were desperately unhappy and extremely angry with the monarchy and Parliament of England who ruled them. The set down in The Declaration of Independence over two dozen reason why they sought to separate from this government that they considered tyrannical. Inspired and motivated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment and their self-reliance and independence that life taught them living in the colonies caused them to unite and decide to risk everything and rebel.
The Constitution of the United States of America is a carefully and artfully written document that created a government based on democracy and separation of power to ensure no one branch would become too powerful. The argument can be made, that this cannot be viewed as a true democracy because only white men could participate. At that time in society, it was shocking to institute a government of this sort. Women and African Americans were not yet considered equals. However, because the way The Constitution was organized, it was adapted and changed through popular vote to eventually include African Americans and women. Every adult in the United States is able to participate in governmental processes through elections, serving on juries or running for a legislative seat.
Over the course of the last three centuries, other nations and developing nations have observed the success of a modern democracy. Many former colonies of France, England and the Netherlands have been given their independence and formed democracies. They have been inspired to write their own constitutions. Many modern day monarchies, such as the one in Britain is purely symbolic. A democratic government in the form of a parliament and prime minister is actually in place. Throughout the world, when a nations rises up against a tyrant or negative form of government that preys on its populace, it is replaced by a democracy that will ensure the population that it will never happen again.
Unfortunately many of the “democracies” that exist in the world today are simply a façade for a dictatorship or oligarchy. There are those on power who have wrongfully used military or outside forces help them to take office and control of a nation. Syria and North Korea are both examples of this abuse. The term democracy should not even be used to describe the government of countries such as these. There are countries who have adopted the American idea of a democracy and have excelled at its implementation and execution such as Sweden and Norway. These nations have succeeded in maintaining a form of government that is stable, effective and supported by the people.
The Ancient Greeks of Athens were lead and inspired by great thinkers and politicians. They created and developed the democracy which they felt was truly a government of the people for the people. The concept was radical. The world had not seen a government of this type before. With the rediscovery of this form of rule during the Renaissance and the questioning of man and society by the intellects of the Enlightenment, the time was right for the reintroduction of the democracy in modern times. This system of government works, and it works well. It has gained popularity in over half of the world’s nations.

Works Cited

Cartledge, Paul, “The Democratic Experiment” British Broadcasting Company, last modified
February 17, 2011,
Meaney, Thomas, and Mounk, Yascha, “What was Democracy?” Nation 298, no. 22 (2014):
24-36. Accessed March 20, 2015, pdfviewer?sid
Ober, Josiah, “What the Ancient Greeks can Tell Us about Democracy” Princeton/Stanford
Working Papers in Classics, last modified September 2007,
Samons, Loren, What’s wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American
Worship. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004.
Straus, Barry, “American Democracy through Ancient Greek Eyes” History Today 44, no. 4
(1994): 32-38. Accessed March 20, 2015,
pdfviewer? sid=3e7f02c4-2a09-49e0-9403-c74cd79f496%40sessionmgr4002&vid

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