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Histroy 101 Western Civ - Essay Example

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Name Professor Subject Date Democratic Ideals in Athenian Philosophy, Culture And Art Athens is best known in history as the bastion of democratic ideals, especially during the Middle Ages. Although its brilliant history is fraught with wars against internal and external invaders, it has greatly contributed to mankind many of its democratic ideals…
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Download file to see previous pages Athens as a democratic state was much emphasized during the 4th century BC although many historical documents have shown that democracy as a way of life was very much practiced as early as 5 B.C. The word Demos connotes two important things for Athenians- “village” and “people”. Village was the smallest unit of government at that time. People belonged to a certain village; in fact, men who are at least 18 years of age could participate in the Assembly. The Assembly was attended by anyone from the village that wants to have their voice heard. This included Demosthenes who tirelessly rebukes citizens to recall certain events since the people were always present in such Assembly (Blackwell, 2003, p6). It was of grave importance to always attend to the concerns being discussed during the said meeting. The characteristics of such a meeting showed the democratic ideals of Athens. First, anyone can speak regardless of trade or position in society, especially if the issue at hand is about governance. For other concerns that needed specialized knowledge, a craftsman is called forth to shed opinion on such matters (Blackwell, p7). These rules during an assembly imply that democracy was highly-valued and actively practiced. Democracy is not just a lofty ideal since it was practiced by the citizens. The assembly just shows how wealth is considered inferior to the democratic rights of its citizens (Lewis and Lewis,p.219). The practice of democracy was further heightened by Pericles during 460 B.C. Previously, public officials were appointed based on wealth or birth status. Such criteria for public office were promulgated by Solon or Cleisthenes. Pericles made the selection more democratic by allowing patrons to represent slaves and resident aliens, which is referred to as equality of opportunity. Although such practice earned criticism of historians since they believed it promoted “aristocracy”, the important to consider was the fact that representatives were chosen based on merit. Merit does not include wealth nor birth status which allowed men from all walks of life to have a say in matters of the state. This philosophy of Pericles is again an example of how democratic ideals permeated the political structure and governance of Athens. Interestingly, art became a willing medium of democratic ideals for this civilization. The assembly provided enough fodder for playwrights to create plays that can be considered political satire. In the same manner, the epic Iliad which is a gory depiction of battles is also said to have an underlying tone of political satire. According to Stewart, The Battle Between Frogs and The Mice is actually a satire with a pacifist theme. Again, the relevance of political satire when it comes to democratic ideals is that such art forms express how vigilant Athenians are over issues that concern their homeland. Pacifism is a philosophy adhered to by Athenians for they were not men of war like Spartans. Although critics may disagree with such stand, this emphasizes to students of history that this society respected the opinion of its citizens. Lastly, the choir setting in Greek plays also demonstrates the ideals of democracy in Athens. Studies relating performing arts assert that “Performance reflects, encodes cultural models” (Goldhill and Osborne, 27). Democracy is expressed by the choir’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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