The period of high classics (V century BC). Athenian democracy.
Athenian democracy.The middle of the V century. - the heyday of the democratic state system in Athens and many other polis. It was based on the principles outlined by Aristotle: the goal of citizens is to create the best conditions for material and spiritual life, the means to achieve the goal is the ability to rule and obey. The number of citizens included only half of the population of Athens, at the best of times about 30-40 thousand people, unfree people, women, children, slaves were about the same number, so democracy was intended only for the elect.1
A full citizen in the middle of the fifth century was considered a person over the age of 18, whose mother and father were Athenians, that is, they were included in the civil lists. He had the rights to personal freedom, to own a plot of land, to serve in the militia, to participate in public affairs - these components formed the image of a full-fledged Athenian citizen.
The highest state body in Athens was the People's Assembly - the Ecclesia. It had two main functions: the election of officials and the approval of laws - the participants of the ecclesia decided who and by what laws would govern Athens. At the meeting, the most important resolutions on peace and war related to the food supply of the city were adopted, the state budget and decisions on the expulsion of the objectionable were approved. It gathered about once every nine days. Every citizen could speak on the condition that he would not tear his clothes, hair, swear and intensely show emotions, that is, respect for external decency was required - then any participant in the ecclesia had the right to submit his bill. Sometimes not all citizens gathered, because there was no concept of a quorum: the Athenian state covered a large region and people from remote areas did not have the opportunity to travel to Athens often. In addition, it was quite stressful for a person working on a land plot and providing for a family to get out to Athens once every nine days. Therefore, later, from the IV century, a fee was introduced for attending the people's assembly to compensate for the damage caused. Under these conditions, only wealthy people who had free time could deal with state affairs, therefore, in the upper strata there is a contemptuous attitude towards physical labor, which was not the case in the Homeric era.
In Athens there was a jury (helia), consisting of an incredible number of people - about six thousand, distributed in ten chambers of six hundred people. Such a large number was appointed in order to avoid influencing the court, which was impossible to bribe. The court dealt with lawsuits between citizens, but there was no system of defense and prosecution, and the citizen accused or defended himself independently. To do this, he or someone on his order made up a speech in advance, which he learned by heart and pronounced in court. Depending on the persuasiveness of the arguments put forward, the jury made a decision.
The next institute of Athenian democracy is the Council of Five Hundred, the working body of the People's Assembly. By lot, five hundred people were elected to it from citizens of all categories introduced by Solon, for a term of one year with the right to be re-elected once. The Council carried out the preparation and organization of the work of the people's assemblies between its convocations: drafted laws, agendas, etc. The members of the Council received salaries.
In the structure of the state administration of Athens, there was not a democratic institution - the Areopagus, so named after its location on the hill of the god of war Ares. The origin of the areopagus dates back to the mythological period. It consisted of citizens appointed for life from aristocratic families (up to 70 people) who were engaged in criminal cases and religious crimes. The members of the areopagus observed the upbringing of youth and the preservation of good morals. The Areopagus lost its significant influence on the course of political affairs after the reform of the Ephialt (462), which deprived this institution of the right to approve laws recommended by the People's Assembly and to judge officials for crimes.
Athens had a developed system of magistracies, that is, a hierarchy of officials. The most influential of them were the archons and strategists. The archons were engaged in matters related to urban improvement, religious ceremonies, judicial and military-administrative affairs. The year was named after the first archon (eponym).
None of the magistracies was individual: in order to avoid the gathering of power in the hands of one person, colleges of magistrates were created - for example, nine archons - because they were very afraid of the resumption of tyranny. By the middle of the fifth century, the Archons had lost their former importance due to the nomination of strategists, organizers of the army, who headed military expeditions. In fact, they played a leading role in the Athenian state. Strategists were elected to the collegium (10 people) by raising their hands (ordination) and could be re-elected as much as they liked, because, unlike other officials, they did not report to the People's Assembly.The highest magistrates were mostly wealthy people, as a rule, from aristocratic families, who had enough free time and were able to incur expenses (liturgies) related to their position: in some cases, the highest magistrates paid for public events related to construction, religious celebrations, etc. out of their own pockets, according to the legislation According to Solon, a person who was in the category of fets could not become a lower magistrate, but a higher official (archon, strategist) there could only be a "five hundred". However, this rule was rarely observed by the time of Pericles.
However, rich and noble people did not play a decisive role in the political life of the Athenian state, because the main figure in Athens during the heyday of democracy was an average citizen. Democracy is the rule of the middle strata, that is, the bulk of the civilian population. Official abuses were avoided due to the fact that part of the magistracies occupied by not well-off people (for example, members of the helia) was paid.
The democratic system has been formed for a long time, since the era of Solon. An important stage in its formation was the reforms of Cleisthenes (509-500). Cleisthenes introduced the territorial division of Attica, abolishing the generic one - an important principle for the formation of any state. Candidates for leadership positions were henceforth elected from administrative districts. He created the Council of Five Hundred and introduced such a measure as ostracism, when a person capable of undermining the foundations of democracy was expelled from the state for ten years. The exile was not executed and his property was not confiscated, because ostracism was a measure to eliminate influence, its name comes from the word "ostraka" - a potsherd on which members of the assembly wrote the name of the exiled, which required at least six thousand votes - the only introduction of a quorum in the practice of Athenian democracy. Athenians often showed fear of the power of one person, so most prominent and worthy citizens became victims of ostracism. In reality, it began to be used after the Marathon Battle (490) and soon became an instrument of struggle to eliminate political opponents, which the Athenians later realized and in 417, during the Peloponnesian War, ostracism was abolished.
The democratic system receives its final formalization under Pericles, who was re-elected Athenian strategist from 444 to 429. Under him, Athens is experiencing an unprecedented cultural and economic flourishing. Pericles himself said: "Our state system does not imitate other people's institutions; we ourselves serve as a model for some rather than imitate others."1