Athenian Democracy: A Comparative Analysis

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Ancient Greek democracy appears to have ended as a result of both internal and external factors. Like the subsequent Roman Empire, the Athenian state appears to have over-reached in its militaristic ambitions, ultimately weakening it; while the relative strength of other empires enabled them to take Greece over. The imposition of rule by foreign empires finally ended Greek democracy.

From internally, Athens moved from being a defender of its own nation to an aggressor though it would have no doubt maintained that this was in its national security interests. One of the consequences of this aggression and ambition was the loss of the alliances that had helped repel the Persians and in some cases their subjugation (Brand, n.d., p.28). National unity of purpose was replaced by resentment, and serious conflict with Sparta emerged.

The three-decade Peloponnesian Wars eventuated (431-404 BCE), and Athenian democracy was replaced and reinstated at intervals during the ebbs and
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Externally to Athens, Macedonia in northern Greece massively increased its military capabilities under the reign of Phillip II during the middle of the third century BC, coinciding with the escalation of Athens’ difficulties. Phillip’s son, Alexander the Great, oversaw the end of Athenian democracy.


Democracy alone does not guarantee good governance, and the power to influence the form of government does not always lie entirely within. Athens’ democracy in the end clearly demonstrated these realities.

However, as noted by Brand (n.d., p.35), Greek democracy did leave enduring legacies. In this sense it did not really end. Greece is a democracy again today, and democratic systems all over the world owe much to Ancient

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