Ancient Greek Assembly: “… Our form of does not imitate the laws of neighboring states. On the contrary, we are rather a model to others. Our form of government is called a Greek democracy because its administration is in the hands, not of a few, but of the whole people. In the settling of private disputes, everyone is equal before the law.
Ancient Greek Assembly
Election to public office is made on the basis of ability, not on the basis of membership to a particular class. No man is kept out of public office by the obscurity of his social standing because of his poverty, as long as he wishes to be of service to the state. And not only in our public life are we free and open, but a sense of freedom regulates our day-to-day life with each other.
From Pericles’ Funeral Oration:
Ancient Greece is famous for a very number of things. But the most important contribution of Greece to the world is said to be the democratic system of government. A system which may not be the best, but definitely is better than all other systems of government. It was around 508 BC that Athenian democracy developed in the city of Athens.
Athenian democracy is a very vast topic of discussion. Therefore, only one aspect of democracy in ancient Greece has discussed here i.e. the assembly. Ancient Greek Assembly or ecclesia was the place where central events were held. It resembled a parliament. But the members, unlike modern parliament, were not elected.
Ancient Greek did not have a representative democracy, but a direct democracy. Ecclesia, the principal assembly existed in the golden age of Greece, i.e. from 480 BC to 404 BC. Ecclesia literally meant a gathering of those summoned. It assembled at the Pnyx which was an open-air auditorium west of the Greek Acropolis. Insolvents and convicts were denied the membership of the assembly.
A peculiarity of the assembly
The peculiarity of the assembly was that all adults were allowed to participate in the events of the assembly. Adults meant those who were above 18 years of age. Ecclesia was open to all regardless of class or status. Everyone had the right to nominate and vote for magistrates who take decisions on important national matters like war and peace. By the 5th century BC, the number of citizens who participated in the affairs of the assembly rose to about 43,000 people. The quorum required to conduct the business of the assembly was 6,000.
The assembly was responsible for declaring war, military strategy, and electing officials. It was after of Solon’s codification of the law that the Ecclesia became coterminous with the body of male citizens. There were around 40 assembly meetings a year. The vote was taken by a show of hands and a simple majority was enough to determine an issue. It is said that a gang of Scythian slaves carrying ropes went around the city to catch those who did not take part in the meeting of the assembly.