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Democracy

Democracy means the rule of the people (in Greek). That is where each individual person has a vote about what to do. Whatever the most people vote for wins. There is no king or tyrant, and anybody can propose a new law. One problem that immediately comes up in a democracy is who is going to be able to vote. Should people vote who are just visiting from some other city-state? How about little kids, should they vote? Or should there be some limits? The earliest democracy in the world began in Athens, in 510 BC. When democracy proved to be successful in Athens, many other city-states chose it for their government too. But most of them allowed even fewer people to vote than Athens did: most of the other city-states only allowed free adult male citizens to vote IF they owned land or owned their own houses (that is, the richer people). Another problem for democracies was that it was very inconvenient for men to always be going to the meeting-place to vote. Most men had work to do, planting their grain, making shoes, fighting wars or whatever. They couldn't be always voting. So most democracies sooner or later ended up choosing a few men who would do most of the voting, and the rest only came when there was a really important vote. It was hard to decide how to choose these few men, and different cultures did it different ways. Athens did it by a lottery. If you got the winning ticket then you were on the Council of 500. Men served for a year. Democracy spread around the Mediterranean, but it was pretty much wiped out by the Roman Empire about 100 BC. Still, places like Athens continued to use democratic methods to make their own decisions on local matters for a long time after that. A thousand years later, in the Middle Ages, some cities in Italy - Siena, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Venice - went back to having a democratic government. These were all organized in slightly different ways, but none of them allowed the poor or women to vote, and some had a lottery system like Athens. Ancient Greek Government The Greeks had a lot of different kinds of governments, because there were many different city-states in ancient Greece, and they each had their own government. In addition, people's ideas about what made a good government changed over time. Aristotle divided Greek governments into monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies and democracies, and most historians still use these same divisions. For the most part, Greece began by having monarchies, then oligarchies, then tyrannies and then democracies, but at each period there were plenty of city-states using a different system, and there were many which never did become democracies or tyrannies at all. In the Late Bronze Age (the Mycenean period), between about 2000 and 1200 BC, all Greek city-states seem to have been monarchies, ruled by kings. Homer's Iliad, and Greek mythology in general, shows us a whole series of kings like Agamemnon and Theseus, and some of their palaces have survived for archaeologists to dig up. After the Dark Age, though, only a few Greek city-states still had kings. Sparta is the most famous of these, though actually Sparta had two kings, usually brothers or cousins, at the same time. One would stay home and the other go off to fight wars. Most city-states in the Archaic period were ruled by oligarchies, which is a group of aristocrats (rich men) who tell everyone else what to do. Then in the 600's and 500's BC a lot of city-states were taken over by tyrants. Tyrants were usually one of the aristocrats who got power over the others by getting the support of the poor people. They ruled kind of like kings, but without any legal right to rule. In 510 BC, the city-state of Athens created the first democratic government, and soon other Greek city-states imitated them. Even city-states that weren't Greek, like Carthage and Rome, experimented with giving the poor people more power at this time. But Athenian democracy did not really give power to everyone. Most of the people in Athens

for two thousand years. if the consuls asked them to – things like whether to go to war. but the Emperors had all the real power – kept on going for the next 1500 years. Then in the 300's BC. Athens and other Greek city-states still kept their local democracies or oligarchies for local government. Tribunes were elected by the Assembly. the people in charge were two men called consuls. But the Assembly was set up so that richer people got more votes than poorer people. They voted on some big issues. because they had the army with them. either. They could do that. Finally. . ruling over many other Greek city-states. more or less. there was also an Assembly of all the men (not women) who were grownup and free and had Roman citizenship. Augustus. and they decided whether to start a war and how much taxes to collect and what the laws were. you stayed in for the rest of your life. no slaves. no children. This system – where there was still a Senate and consuls. which was made up of men from wealthy families in Rome. They both had to agree in order to change anything. these generals had begun to take over the government and not pay any attention to the consuls or the Senate anymore. Greece was a province of the Roman Empire. and he said they were in charge. The consuls controlled the army. From 146 BC on. They were also in charge of the army while it was conquering places. the consuls did what the Senate advised. Roman government had more or less the same system. There were tribunes. and none of those people living in the other citystates could vote either. Greece was conquered by Philip of Macedon. Women were not allowed to be consuls. Athens at this time had an empire. if one of them said “veto”. By about 50 BC.couldn't vote . he kept control of most of the army as well. they also had a system of provincial governors – men who took charge of a province of the Empire. and then by Philip's son Alexander the Great. and just do as they pleased. The consuls got advice from the Senate. until it was gradually taken over by the Romans between 200 and 146 BC. So he could kill anyone who got in his way. but he made the Senate vote to give him the powers of a tribune for the rest of his life. There were also prefects in Rome. But he realized that people didn’t like this pushing people around. but really he acted like a king). in 500 BC. were all men. And they elected the consuls and prefects and the Senators. whose job it was to run the city – some heard court cases.no women. Of course there were some changes over that time too! When the Roman Republic was first set up. the time of Julius Caesar. That way. Roman Government From 500 BC to nearly 1500 AD. too. far away from the city of Rome. Latin for “I forbid it”. Most of the time. Most consuls eventually joined the Senate. in 31 BC. Once you got into the Senate. but bigger decisions were made by Philip. and all of Greece began to be ruled by him as their king (in theory he was only leading a league of Greek city-states. Augustus kept the Senate and the consuls. Women were not allowed in the Senate. And. was one of these generals. and who heard court cases there. some ran the vegetable markets or the meat markets or the port. Once the Romans began conquering other places. no foreigners (even Greeks from other city-states). These. After Alexander died in 323 BC. he could veto (forbid) anything the Senate tried to do that Augustus didn’t like. then nothing would be done. Greece became a kingdom ruled by a series of Macedonian kings. Of course it is a lot easier to have a democratic government when you are only deciding what other people should do. and so he set up a different system (but still one where he had all the power). and they could veto (forbid) anything the Senate voted for that affected the poor (which ended up being pretty much anything the Senate voted on). And also. and most senators were from families where their fathers and grandfathers had been in the Senate. who were supposed to speak for the poorer people in the Senate.