The Limitations in Greek Citizenship and Democracy

Length: 4 Pages 1053 Words

According to most present-day historians that focus on the political and social realms of ancient Greece, the implementation of the concept of citizenship as the basis for the city-state (polis) and the extension of citizen status to all free-born members of the community is most closely related to the Athenians who desired to form a free society in the ancient world with democracy as its foundation. In Athens, citizenship carried certain legal rights, such as access to courts to resolve disputes, protection against enslavement by kidnapping and participation in the religious and cultural life of the polis. It also implied participation in politics, although the degree of participation open to the poorest men varied among different city-states. The ability to hold office, for example, could be limited in some cases to owners of a certain amount of property or wealth. But most importantly, citizen status distinguished free men and women from slaves and foreigners; thus, even the poor had a distinction that set themselves apart from these groups that were not given the gift of citizenship. There were also other limitations in regard to Athenian citizenship, for the incompleteness of the equality that und Continue...

let us begin and create in idea a State. 4 Lastly, in the Nicomahean Ethics (Book V, Section 3), Aristotle points out that "awards should be according to merit, for all men agree that what is just in distribution must be according to merit in some degree. The power of the court system, however, epitomized the power of Athenian democracy in action. The Athenians established Greece's most renowned and copied democracy in which individual freedom flourished to a degree unprecedented in the ancient world. Three specific works, namely Plato's Apology and The Republic and Aristotle's Nicomahean Ethics, provide many examples on the limitations of citizenship and democracy as they were found in ancient Athens. Citizen women had access to courts in disputes over property and other legal matters, but they could not represent themselves and had to have men speak for their interests, a requirement that reveals their inequality under the law.


Limits of Greek Democracy
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