The Council of - Ancient Athens
The Council of The Athenian democratic system functioned as a direct democracy, and there were three major institutions where eligible Athenian citizens. Citizenship could be granted in very rare cases but it did not happen often. what was life like for a decision made by the council of that is presented to the assembly. orator. someone How often did the assembly meet? every days . The Council of represented the full-time government of Athens. The Council would meet to discuss and vote on “Preliminary decrees” perhaps largely fictional, of the speech Socrates gave when on trial for impiety), 31c-d). So, in Plato's account, it seems that service on the Council did not indicate.
The age limit of 30 or older, the same as that for office holders but ten years older than that required for participation in the assembly, gave the courts a certain standing in relation to the assembly. Jurors were required to be under oath, which was not required for attendance at the assembly. The authority exercised by the courts had the same basis as that of the assembly: Unlike office holders magistrateswho could be impeached and prosecuted for misconduct, the jurors could not be censured, for they, in effect, were the people and no authority could be higher than that.
A corollary of this was that, at least acclaimed by defendants, if a court had made an unjust decision, it must have been because it had been misled by a litigant. For private suits the minimum jury size was increased to if a sum of over drachmas was at issuefor public suits Under Cleisthenes's reforms, juries were selected by lot from a panel of jurors, there being jurors from each of the ten tribes of Athens, making a jury pool of in total.
The cases were put by the litigants themselves in the form of an exchange of single speeches timed by a water clock or clepsydra, first prosecutor then defendant. In a public suit the litigants each had three hours to speak, much less in private suits though here it was in proportion to the amount of money at stake. Decisions were made by voting without any time set aside for deliberation. Jurors did talk informally amongst themselves during the voting procedure and juries could be rowdy, shouting out their disapproval or disbelief of things said by the litigants.
This may have had some role in building a consensus. The jury could only cast a 'yes' or 'no' vote as to the guilt and sentence of the defendant. For private suits only the victims or their families could prosecute, while for public suits anyone ho boulomenos, 'whoever wants to' i.
There was however a mechanism for prosecuting the witnesses of a successful prosecutor, which it appears could lead to the undoing of the earlier verdict.
Payment for jurors was introduced around BC and is ascribed to Periclesa feature described by Aristotle as fundamental to radical democracy Politics a 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.
Notably, this was introduced more than fifty years before payment for attendance at assembly meetings.
Running the courts was one of the major expenses of the Athenian state and there were moments of financial crisis in the 4th century when the courts, at least for private suits, had to be suspended. No judges presided over the courts, nor did anyone give legal direction to the jurors. Magistrates had only an administrative function and were laymen.
Most of the annual magistracies in Athens could only be held once in a lifetime. There were no lawyers as such; litigants acted solely in their capacity as citizens. Whatever professionalism there was tended to disguise itself; it was possible to pay for the services of a speechwriter or logographer logographosbut this may not have been advertised in court. Jurors would likely be more impressed if it seemed as though litigants were speaking for themselves.
Starting in BC, political trials were no longer held in the assembly, but only in a court. Under this, anything passed or proposed by the assembly could be put on hold for review before a jury — which might annul it and perhaps punish the proposer as well.
Remarkably, it seems that blocking and then successfully reviewing a measure was enough to validate it without needing the assembly to vote on it. For example, two men have clashed in the assembly about a proposal put by one of them; it passes, and now the two of them go to court with the loser in the assembly prosecuting both the law and its proposer.
The quantity of these suits was enormous. The courts became in effect a kind of upper house. In the 5th century, there were no procedural differences between an executive decree and a law. They were both simply passed by the assembly. However, beginning in BC, they were set sharply apart.
Henceforth, laws were made not in the assembly, but by special panels of citizens drawn from the annual jury pool of 6, This expression encapsulated the right of citizens to take the initiative to stand to speak in the assembly, to initiate a public lawsuit that is, one held to affect the political community as a wholeto propose a law before the lawmakers, or to approach the council with suggestions.
Unlike officeholders, the citizen initiator was not voted on before taking up office or automatically reviewed after stepping down; these institutions had, after all, no set tenure and might be an action lasting only a moment.
However, any stepping forward into the democratic limelight was risky. If another citizen initiator chose, a public figure could be called to account for their actions and punished. In situations involving a public figure, the initiator was referred to as a kategoros 'accuser'a term also used in cases involving homicide, rather than ho diokon 'the one who pursues'. We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.
Archon and Areopagus Just before the reforms of Solon in the 7th century BC, Athens was governed by a few archons three, then later nine and the council of the Areopaguswhich was composed of members powerful noble families. While there seems to have also been a type of citizen assembly presumably of the hoplite classthe archons and the body of the Areopagus ran the state and the mass of people had no say in government at all before these reforms.
Since the Areopagus was made up of ex-archons, this would eventually mean the weakening of the hold of the nobles there as well. However, even with Solon's creation of the citizen's assembly, the Archons and Areopagus still wielded a great deal of power.
In the play The Eumenidesperformed inAeschylushimself a noble, portrays the Areopagus as a court established by Athena herself, an apparent attempt to preserve the dignity of the Areopagus in the face of its disempowerment. They were mostly chosen by lotwith a much smaller and more prestigious group of about elected. Neither was compulsory; individuals had to nominate themselves for both selection methods.
In particular, those chosen by lot were citizens acting without particular expertise. This was almost inevitable since, with the notable exception of the generals strategoieach office had restrictive term limits. For example, a citizen could only be a member of the Boule in two non-consecutive years in their life.
Age restrictions were in place with thirty years as a minimum, rendering about a third of the adult citizen body ineligible at any one time. An unknown proportion of citizens were also subject to disenfranchisement atimiaexcluding some of them permanently and others temporarily depending on the type.
Furthermore, all citizens selected were reviewed before taking up office dokimasia at which time they might be disqualified. While citizens voting in the assembly were free of review or punishment, those same citizens when holding an office served the people and could be punished very severely. In addition to being subject to review prior to holding office, officeholders were also subject to an examination after leaving office euthunai, 'straightenings' or 'submission of accounts' to review their performance.
Both of these processes were in most cases brief and formulaic, but they opened up the possibility of a contest before a jury court if some citizen wanted to take a matter up. Even during his period of office, any officeholder could be impeached and removed from office by the assembly. In each of the ten "main meetings" kuriai ekklesiai a year, the question was explicitly raised in the assembly agenda: Citizens active as officeholders served in a quite different capacity from when they voted in the assembly or served as jurors.
By and large, the power exercised by these officials was routine administration and quite limited. These officeholders were the agents of the people, not their representatives, so their role was that of administration, rather than governing.
The powers of officials were precisely defined and their capacity for initiative limited. When it came to penal sanctions, no officeholder could impose a fine over fifty drachmas. Anything higher had to go before a court. 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.
Part of the ethos of democracy, rather, was the building of general competence by ongoing involvement. In the 5th century setup, the ten annually elected generals were often very prominent, but for those who had power, it lay primarily in their frequent speeches and in the respect accorded them in the assembly, rather than their vested powers.
Selection by lot[ edit ] The allotment of an individual was based on citizenship, rather than merit or any form of personal popularity which could be bought. Allotment therefore was seen as a means to prevent the corrupt purchase of votes and it gave citizens political equality, as all had an equal chance of obtaining government office. This also acted as a check against demagoguerythough this check was imperfect and did not prevent elections from involving pandering to voters.
Athenians selected for office served as teams boards, panels. In a group, one person is more likely to know the right way to do things and those that do not may learn from those that do. During the period of holding a particular office, everyone on the team would be observing everybody else as a sort of check.
However, there were officials, such as the nine archons, who while seemingly a board carried out very different functions from each other. No office appointed by lot could be held twice by the same individual.
The only exception was the boule or council of In this case, simply by demographic necessity, an individual could serve twice in a lifetime. This principle extended down to the secretaries and undersecretaries who served as assistants to magistrates such as the archons.
To the Athenians, it seems what had to be guarded against was not incompetence but any tendency to use office as a way of accumulating ongoing power. There were two main categories in this group: One reason that financial officials were elected was that any money embezzled could be recovered from their estates; election in general strongly favoured the rich, but in this case wealth was virtually a prerequisite.
Generals were elected not only because their role required expert knowledge, but also because they needed to be people with experience and contacts in the wider Greek world where wars were fought. In the 5th century BC, principally as seen through the figure of Periclesthe generals could be among the most powerful people in the polis. Yet in the case of Pericles, it is wrong to see his power as coming from his long series of annual generalships each year along with nine others.
His officeholding was rather an expression and a result of the influence he wielded. That influence was based on his relation with the assembly, a relation that in the first instance lay simply in the right of any citizen to stand and speak before the people.
Under the 4th century version of democracy, the roles of general and of key political speaker in the assembly tended to be filled by different persons.
In part, this was a consequence of the increasingly specialized forms of warfare practiced in the later period.
How often did the council of meet
Elected officials, too, were subject to review before holding office and scrutiny after office. And they could also be removed from office at any time that the assembly met. There was even a death penalty for "inadequate performance" while in office.
Slavery in ancient Greece Athenian democracy has had many critics, both ancient and modern. Ancient Greek critics of Athenian 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. While modern critics are more likely to find fault with the restrictive qualifications for political involvement, these ancients viewed democracy as being too inclusive.
For them, the common people were not necessarily the right people to rule and were likely to make huge mistakes. The modern desire to look to Athens for lessons or encouragement for modern thought, government, or society must confront this strange paradox: And what is more, the actual history of Athens in the period of its democratic government is marked by numerous failures, mistakes, and misdeeds—most infamously, the execution of Socrates—that would seem to discredit the ubiquitous modern idea that democracy leads to good government.
For example, he points to errors regarding Sparta ; Athenians erroneously believed that Sparta's kings each had two votes in their ruling council and that there existed a Spartan battalion called Pitanate lochos. To Thucydides, this carelessness was due to common peoples' "preference for ready-made accounts". Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which everyone has equal rights, they regarded itas manifestly unjust. In Aristotle's works, this is categorized as the difference between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' i.
Two examples demonstrate this: In BC, after years of defeats in the wake of the annihilation of their vast invasion force in Sicily, the Athenians at last won a naval victory at Arginusae over the Spartans. After the battle, a storm arose and the generals in command failed to collect survivors. The Athenians tried and sentenced six of the eight generals to death.
Technically, it was illegal, as the generals were tried and sentenced together, rather than one by one as Athenian law required. Socrates happened to be the citizen presiding over the assembly that day and refused to cooperate though to little effect and stood against the idea that it was outrageous for the people to be unable to do whatever they wanted.
Boule (ancient Greece) - Wikipedia
In addition to this unlawful injustice, the demos later on regretted the decision and decided that they had been misled. Those charged with misleading the demos were put on trial, including the author of the motion to try the generals together.
His death gave Europe one of the first intellectual martyrs still recorded, but guaranteed the democracy an eternity of bad press at the hands of his disciple and enemy to democracy, Plato. From Socrates's arguments at his trial, Loren Samons writes, "It follows, of course, that any majority—including the majority of jurors—is unlikely to choose rightly. Surely, some might continue, we may simply write off events such as Socrates' execution as examples of the Athenians' failure to realize fully the meaning and potential of their own democracy.What did democracy really mean in Athens? - Melissa Schwartzberg
Much of his writings were about his alternatives to democracy. His The RepublicThe Statesmanand Laws contained many arguments against democratic rule and in favour of a much narrower form of government: For instance, the system of nomothesia was introduced. A new law might be proposed by any citizen. Any proposal to modify an existing law had to be accompanied by a proposed replacement law.
The citizen making the proposal had to publish it [in] advance: The proposal would be considered by the Council, and would be placed on the agenda of the Assembly in the form of a motion. If the Assembly voted in favor of the proposed change, the proposal would be referred for further consideration by a group of citizens called nomothetai literally "establishers of the law". That is to say, the mass meeting of all citizens lost some ground to gatherings of a thousand or so which were under oath, and with more time to focus on just one matter though never more than a day.
One downside to this change was that the new democracy was less capable of responding quickly in times where quick, decisive action was needed. Another tack of criticism is to notice the disquieting links between democracy and a number of less than appealing features of Athenian life.
Although democracy predated Athenian imperialism by over thirty years, they are sometimes associated with each other. For much of the 5th century at least, democracy fed off an empire of subject states. Thucydides the son of Milesias not the historianan aristocrat, stood in opposition to these policies, for which he was ostracised in BC. 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.
Those in the poorest class could not serve on the boule of The higher governmental posts, archons magistrateswere reserved for citizens of the top two income groups.
The men were chosen by lot at the deme level, each deme having been allotted a certain number of places proportional to population. Membership was restricted at this time to the top three of the original four property classes the PentacosiomedimniHippeis and Zeugitaebut not the Thetes and to citizens over the age of thirty.
The former restriction, though never officially changed, fell out of practice by the middle of the 5th century BC. Members of the boule served for one year and no man could serve more than twice in his life, nor more than once a decade. The leaders of the boule the prytany consisted of 50 men chosen from among theand a new 'prytany' was chosen every month. The man in charge of prytany was replaced every day from among the 50 members.
The boule met every day except for festival days and ill-omened days. According to AristotleCleisthenes introduced the Bouleutic Oath. It supervised the state's finances, navy, cavalry, sacred matters, building and shipping matters and care for invalids and orphans.
Its own members staffed many boards that oversaw the finer points of these many administrative duties. It undertook the examination of public officials both before and after leaving office most offices lasting one year to ensure honest accounting and loyalty to the state.
It heard some cases of impeachment of public officials for high crimes and mismanagement or serious dereliction of duties.