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HIS 104 Study Guide - Quiz Guide: Athenian Democracy, Direct Democracy

Course Code
HIS 104
Daniel J. Gargola
Study Guide

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~ Chapter Two Summary ~
o In a world dominated by great empires, and in a Greek mainland split among multiple states, the
Athenians built a state rules by its own citizens.
o Decisions about war and peace, life and death, hinged on speakers’ abilities to convince
ordinary people that they were right.
Though women were excluded from public life, Athens was a direct democracy for
its free, native, male inhabitants.
Athens was also Greece’s dominant naval power, the leader of the coalition
that had defeated Persia in two great wars.
o No other city could rival its private and public wealth, the splendor
of its temples on the Acropolis, or the brilliance of the philosophers
and orators who debated in its streets and assemblies.
o Yet in later centuries the city has also been emblematic for its loss of equilibrium and tolerance.
o Its drive for power over the other Greek city-states in the years before the Peloponnesian
War allowed demagogues to dominate the political scene.
In the late 4th century BCE, Athens would fail to sustain its independence and its
constitution against a brilliant conqueror, Philip of Macedon, and the democracy
would come to an end.
Still, for almost 200 years Athens remained both a working democracy and
an unparalleled cultural center.
o A longer span than virtually any modern state except the United
o The fate of the Athenian experiment in politics has been a subject of debate ever since the time of
Pericles himself
o Debates carried on in public speeches before the Assembly as well as in histories like that of
For more than 2,000 years, Athens served as an example of the chaos that
democracy can cause.
Not until the 19th century did Athenian democracy win the admiration of
political leaders and historians, which it still largely holds.
o In either perspective, the forms of expression created in Pericles
city have remained, like the word democracy istelf, central to the
Western tradition.
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