Athenian Democracy

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The Athenian democracy (sometimes called classical democracy) was the democratic system developed in the Greek city-state of Athens – one of the very first known democracies and probably the most important in ancient times. Other Greek cities set up democracies, following the Athenian model.  It remains an intriguing experiment in direct democracy were the people do not elect representatives to vote on their behalf but directly vote on legislation and executive bills prepared by the Council of 500. Participation was by no means open to all inhabitants of Attica, but the group of participants was constituted with no reference to economic class.

Council of 500

The council (boule) of 500, the largest board of officeholders, was responsible for drafting preparatory legislation (probouleuma) for consideration by the assembly, overseeing the meetings of the assembly, and in certain cases executing legislation as directed by the assembly. The 500 were selected by a lottery, held each year among the men over thirty years of age.  A citizen could serve on the council twice in his lifetime.In early Athens (as in other Greek states) the assembly could only vote up or down on a probouleuma (prepared by the Council of 500), but by the mid 5th century it had acquired the power to alter and rework the proposals as it saw fit; still, even in the heyday of radical democracy, complex proposals from the boule were known to pass through the assembly all but untouched, indicating the important role that the body played in shaping legislation.The presidency of the boule rotated monthly amongst the delegations from the ten tribes, of the Boule.

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