What did the ancient Athenians mean by demokratia ?
Demokratia was the system of rule under which the ancient Athenians lived under , the term comes from the Greek word "demos" meaning people . The idea was that it was the people themselves who ruled, not a monarchy or a few powerful people. The system was characterized by the fact that it was stateless. It was based on the ideals that every citizen was equal and every citizen participated in society. It was made possible by a number of reforms and the building up of strong institutions. This way of life was dependent on the compliance of the citizens without which it would fall apart.
Three main institutions held this system together. These were the Assembly of the demos, the people's court and the Council of 500.
The institution that occurred most frequently was the Assembly, a place where a citizen could air his opinions.
A citizen had the chance to speak regardless of his place in society. Christopher W. Blackwell of Harvard University quotes Aeschines when he said "the herald acting as a sergeant at arms does not exclude from the platform the man whose ancestors have not held a generals office , nor even the man who earns his daily bread by working at a trade, nay, these men he most heartily welcomes and for this reasons he repeats again and again the invitation "who wishes to address the assembly?". This embodies the spirit of Athenian democracy that every man no matter how poor or weak should be allowed the opportunity to share his viewpoint. To back this up citizens were paid to attend the Assembly, ensuring that the poor really could afford to attend. To illustrate just how ahead of its time this was, the...