Ostracism in athenian democracy

If the assembly broke the law, the only thing that might happen is that it would punish those who had made the proposal that it had agreed to.

The Dikasteria The third important institution was the popular courts, or dikasteria. It seems likely that this procedure was devised to resolve deadlocks in policy and leadership over very important and highly-divisive issues, especially in foreign policy.

His The RepublicThe Statesman and Laws contained many arguments against democratic rule and in favour of a much narrower form of government: Pay was raised from 2 to 3 obols by Cleon early in the Peloponnesian war and there it stayed; the original amount is not known.

This was not necessarily evidence of electoral fraud being no worse than modern voting instruction cardsbut their being Ostracism in athenian democracy in the well may suggest that their creators wished to hide them.

Period of operation[ edit ] Ostracism was not in use throughout the whole period of Athenian democracy circa — BCbut only occurred in the fifth century BC. Little is known about these institutions. This extraordinary success also had the not inconsiderable consequence of confirming, indeed enhancing, the political power of the mass of ordinary poor Athenian citizens.

Officeholders were the agents of the people, not their representatives. Ancient Greek critics of the democracy include Thucydides the general and historian, Aristophanes the playwright, Plato the pupil of Socrates, Aristotle the pupil of Plato, and a writer known as the Old Oligarch.

The authority exercised by the courts had the same basis as that of the assembly: Within the modern British democratic system there are ways of dealing with those whose influence is on the wane but who are still too important to be allowed to remain active at the centre of domestic politics: The former candidate, Alcibiades, favoured outright resumption of war with Sparta on all possible fronts, including even Sicily far away to the west.

Much of his writings were about his alternatives to democracy. While citizens voting in the assembly were the people and so were free of review or punishment, those same citizens when holding an office served the people and could be punished very severely.

However, the "enfranchisement of the local laboring classes was succeeded by the development of chattel slavery, the enslavement of, in large part, foreigners. Slavery was more widespread at Athens than in other Greek cities. In the 5th century BC, there were 10 fixed assembly meetings per year, one in each of the ten state monthswith other meetings called as needed.

At times the imperialist democracy acted with extreme brutality, as in the decision to execute the entire male population of Melos and sell off its women and children simply for refusing to become subjects of Athens.

Of course this is not a crime, but people with too much personal influence can become dangerous for the democratic system itself, even when their ideas are not divisive or dangerous.

Similarly, Cimonostracised in BC, was recalled during an emergency. In the 5th century BC we often hear of the assembly sitting as a court of judgment itself for trials of political importance and it is not a coincidence that is the number both for the full quorum for the assembly and for the annual pool from which jurors were picked for particular trials.

An ostracism was indeed held, but each of the two principals urged his supporters to canvass support and to vote for a third party, an altogether lesser political figure with the unfortunate name of Hyperbolus.

However, the corollary was severe punishment for inadequate performance by those elected, often death.

Ancient Greek Democracy

Competence does not seem to have been the main issue, but rather, at least in the 4th century BC, whether they were loyal democrats or had oligarchic tendencies. While prosecution often led to a counterattack or was a counterattack itselfno such response was possible in the case of ostracism as responsibility lay with the polity as a whole.Democracy, which had prevailed during Athens’ Golden Age, was replaced by a system of oligarchy after the disastrous Athenian defeat in Sicily in BCE.

The constitutional change, according to Thucydides, seemed the only way to win much-needed support from Persia against the old enemy Sparta and, further, it was thought that the change.

Ostracism In addition to the legal assassination condoned in the Law against Tyranny, a less extreme method was also available for removing powerful but dangerous men from public life. This was a formal, regular vote for exile, known as ostracism.

Nevertheless, ostracism was the supreme example of the power of the ordinary people, the demos, to combat abuses of power in the Athenian democracy.

The Process The decision whether or not to ostracise individuals was taken once each year. I argued in the previous two chapters that the Athenian democracy put an end to violent intra-elite politics of exile by usurping control over decisions of exile and using this power with moderation—in particular through the institution of ostracism.

After a century, the Athenian democracy was well-established and no longer needed ostracism.

Athenian democracy

A similar custom existed in ancient Syracuse. The difference was that not sherds were used, but tree leaves; hence, it was called petalism. Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years.

While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the citizen, ostracism was often used preemptively. It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to.

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Ostracism in athenian democracy
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