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Greek History Notes

Classics Notes > Greek History 499BC - 362 BC Notes

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GREEK HISTORY Introduction to the Greek world 499-362 B.C.: Polis:the not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organisation of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together - Hannah Arendt, The Human ConditionAnglo-Saxon ideology - Greek society was the first to be:??

o politically self-conscious o inventor of the principles of state organisation and political discourse Durkheimian Theory - religion pervades everything, all that is social is religious: the two words are synonymous Emily Durkhiem - political institutions of the ancient world is to be understood in terms of social interaction Large city-states could pressure smaller city-states to adopt their laws How much power a city-state had depended on o How big it is o Resources
? Athens - silver mines
? Thebes - timber to build ships

Stasis:?Warfare played a large part in the lives of Ancient Greeks Greeks referred to civil war as stasis o Citizens and neighbours turned against each other Reason for the persistent civil war is the disagreement within a citizen body over who should rule and on what termsThe Poor:?Even though theoretically wealth should not matter in a democracy, they were de facto inferior in society Seen as an "illness" (e.g. Euripedes' Elektra) "a poor man is scorned even when his words are just"


(1252b2) Barbarians i.e. non-Greeks are sub-human o To be regarded in the same light as slaves (1252b27) Polis is the most developed type of settlement

"final and perfect association"?

Full self-sufficiency is the main characteristic and importance of a polis To belong to a polis association is a good thing o To not belong to a polis is seen as a negative thing"He who is without a either a poor sort of being, or a being higher than man"

2The polis is more superior than the individual or the state of being isolated is because of the existence of laws"The virtue of justice belongs to the city"Polis can also be defined by their political constitution

"it is obvious that in determining the identity of the city we must look to the constitution"

Sources and methods: Sources for Greek History:?

(on Thucydides and Aristotle) they were more systematic; and that is likely to imply that they were selective in their presentation of evidence - Oswyn Murray, Cities of Reason The real problem of the Spartan myth may be, not that it is a myth, but that it is (at least in the first instance) a foreign myth, a myth of otherness - Oswyn Murray, Cities of Reason o Spartans are written usually by non-Spartan observers the o Portrayed as an ideal political construct by foreigners o Emphasised its difference - rigid conformity to a system

Political constitutions: Solon:??

Amidst factional political fighting, Solon "called the people together" to cement wide-ranging rules To Solon, tyranny was slavery and therefore, freedom was a value citizens had to prize and fight for To avoid tyranny, Solon: o installed a 2nd council beside the nobles' monopoly of the Areopagus council o opened magistracies to the rich in Attica as well as the noble-born abolished "dues" paid by smaller landowners towards noble overlords throughout Attica o before this, many small landowners were paying 1/6 of their harvest to the nobles in return for "protection" o by 594 BC, many who paid dues became hoplite soldiers and no longer needed the nobles' military support

Political organisations: Oligarchy:?Oligarchs believed that if they are unequal in wealth, they should also have unequal shares in rights o True justice, to them, meant that those who contributed to the end of the city should have privileges in accordance to their contribution to that end o "End" here is defined as a good quality of life (Aristotle) Strength of this argument is that the wealthiest part of the population bore visually apparent burdens (liturgies) o Military sponsorship (only the wealthy could afford armours) and religious sponsorship (festivals) o Also were subject of special war-taxes However, this argument is only valid if contribution to the community is regarded narrowly in terms of financial contribution o "it is the people who man the ships and impart strength to the city; the steersmen, the boatswains, the sub-boatswains - these are the ones who impart strength to the city far

3more than hoplites, the high-born and the good men. This being the case, it seems right for everyone to have a share in the magistracies, both allotted to elective" - Constitution of Athens, Old Oligarch In Oligarchic Athens (411) only the 5000 wealthiest adult male citizens (out of a total adult male population of 40,000) were allowed to have a say in the assembly o Politically ostracised the 35,000 men of the population

Aristocracy:Aristocrats emerged as those who were wealthy after the "dark ages"

Democracy:??Fundamental characteristic of ancient Greek democracy was that all citizens were entitled to have a direct say/involvement in political decision making o Not made by elected representatives o Democratic ideal was that simply being a citizen entitled you to a certain level of political participation on an equal level with even the wealthiest of your fellow citizens Democrats believed that all men were born equal and therefore should have equal distribution of office and honours 20% of the male population was able to attend the assembly each time (500 places in assembly) Men are only allowed to serve on two consecutive years The poor were paid for their political contribution o Not to isolate the poor who were the majority for they would not make a loss for political participation

Constitutional government:
? Disadvantage - not all members of the mass is of the best "it is possible for one man, or a few, to be of outstanding excellence; but when it comes to a large number, we can hardly expect precision in all the varieties of excellence" (1279a25) - AristotleIt is militarily advantageous o Defence forces are the most sovereign body o Those who possess arms are the sovereign body

Nature of Justice:
? Democracy - Believe that if people are equal by birth, they should in justice have equal share in office and honours
? Oligarchs - Believe that if people are unequal by birth, they should in justice have unequal share things o True justice is that those who have contributed to the end of the city should have privileges in proportion to their contribution to that end o "end of the city" is the common promotion of a good quality of life o Those who contribute most to that aim should in justice have the largest share of office and honour Aristotle:
? In Aristotle's Politics, he is seeking the best possible constitution
? We can differentiate between the "right" kind of constitution and "wrong" kind of constitution o Right - directed to the common interest
? Kingship - monarchical form of government which looks to the common interest
? Aristocracy - the best (aristoi) are the rulers or its object is what is best (ariston) for the city and its members


Constitutional government or polity - the masses govern the city with a view to the common interest Wrong - directed to the selfish interest of the ruling body
? Tyranny - directed to interest of that person Excludes goal of benefitting
? Oligarchy - suited to the interest of the wealthy common interest
? Democracy - benefitted the interest of the poor

"the civic body is the constitution itself"?

o Democracy - the demos is sovereign o Oligarchy - the few (oligoi) have civic duties Civic body in every polis is sovereign (to kurion) Sovereign can be split into 3 features: o One Right - rule with a view to the common interest o Few o Many Wrong - directed to personal interest of either one, few, or many Tyranny

[perversion of]



[perversion of]



[perversion of]

Constitutional Government

Democracy is the least "bad" because while it is neglecting the common good, it does it less than tyranny and oligarchy Aristotle also allows that a constitution can include both democratic and oligarchic constitutions o Politea could either mean "golden mean" or a constitution where there is a mixture of the two Good

Oligarchy I

Oligarchy II

Oligarchy III




Democracy I

Democracy II

Democracy III


5??Democracy I - Designed to hold a balance between rich and power so that neither rules the other o Decisions are by majority but the power of the wealthy is entrenched Democracy II - offices based on property-qualifications though these are small Democracy III - allows all citizens who are not liable to trial to hold office and the law holds sovereign rather than the people Democracy IV - the mass has the most power and authority; the people are sovereign Andrew Lintott - criticises Aristotle because criterion for division of constitutions is "one", "many", or "few" but in fact "the real difference lies in the contrasting ideologies of the two constitutions. In oligarchy real difference lies in the contrasting ideologies of the two constitutions" o Oligarchy - wealth o Democracy - citizenship and freedom o But in Aristotle's Politics (book 3), he stated that "the principle of a constitution is in its conception of justice"

Democracy Positive???
Negative?The people, when assembled, have a combination of qualities which enables them to deliberate wisely and to judge soundly Combination of qualities in the assembled people may make them collectively better judges than the expert o But the collective could also swing decisions towards the injustice due to lack of expertise o Based on the assumption that quantity means quality Every citizen has a say in the destiny of his community and his own Majority decisions make it more likely that decisions will be in the interest of the community as a whole rather than for the benefit of a small group large decision making fora reduces risk of corruption rotation of officials reduces risk that power will become abused by officials What if the poor, on the basis of being the majority, proceed to divide amongst themselves the possession of the wealthy (stealing) Lack expertise - "how could anyone know what is right without either having been taught it or having innate awareness of it?" - Herodotus Rotation of officials means a lack of expertise in different areas of public administration (localised expertise)


6 Experts are better judges than the non-expert o Wealth and education had a correlation o Only the wealthy could afford a decent education
? Lower costs of running the state
? Better quality debate facilitated by smaller decisionmaking fora
? More continuity and less disruptions in governmentThe rule of an absolute king can be defended on the found of his expert knowledge?

Expert knowledge is more likely to reside in a number pf people than in one??

If the wealthy have sovereignty, the rest of the citizens will be deprived of honour o Excluding the majority of citizens whose lives would be directly affected (especially warriors) "make a man a monarch, and even if he is the most moral person in the world, he will leave his customary ways of thinking... envy is ingrained in human nature anyway" - Herodotus Small elite is likely to rule in its own narrow interest rather than the community as a whole High competition between the elite o Violent personal feuds arise because every one wants their view to prevail o Leads to bloodshed and violence Long serving officers would be able to consolidate their powers in office and abuse such power7


Democracy Other officials/ executives /

Anyone over the age of 30 is eligible Appointment is by lottery Short periods of office Limited on the number of time an individual can serve Limited individual decisionmaking power

? Sets agenda of assembly
? keeps check of other executive officials?Eligibility depends on property and wealth qualifications appointment by election rather than lottery longer terms in office Holds exclusive making powers

Assembly:?Anyone over 20 years old could attend any meeting he wants Anyone could propose actions as well as vote Citizen birth and age is the only criteria??Decides on war and peace Finances Grain supply Religious issues Elections of officials (Oligarchy)Only those who met the age and wealth criteria can attend assembly meetings

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