Athenian Democracy Essay

1625 Words 7 Pages
The development of Athenian democracy was influenced by complex social, economic, and military issues, not to mention the obvious political aspect. However, even among these complex set of factors, one aspect in the development of Athenian democracy that stands out and affects all three sets of issues is warfare. Warfare was a constant in ancient Greece, and indeed most of the ancient world. City-states constantly fought, mostly against each other, though they would often band together against outside threats such as the Persians. The Greek style of warfare also tended to be fairly homogenous throughout the city-states as well, with an infantry formed from hoplites, and in the fifth century and later, a navy. However, in regards to Athenian …show more content…
Hanson, on the other hand, examines the effect a democratic government and a naval based military had on the second lowest class of citizens, the hoplite class, in his essay “Hoplites into Democrats: The Changing Ideology of Athenian Infantry.” Strauss and Hanson both depict the importance of the lower classes to the success of democracy and agree that both hoplites and thetes were instrumental to the new military approach utilized by Athens. It was through warfare and the advancements caused by war that the lower classes were empowered and that democracy was propelled …show more content…
Fifth century Athens completely distorted the old style of government and warfare (Hanson 292). Hanson cites the Persian Wars as being a major example of an event that propelled Athens toward democracy (Hanson 292). The victory over Persia allowed Athens to establish itself as a dominant power in the Mediterranean, and vastly improved its economic, political, and military resources. These new opportunities would not have been possible in the preceding centuries, and opened a new avenue to Athenian imperialism. Hanson claims that Athenian imperialism, driven by warfare, greatly sped up the process of democracy started by Cleisthenes in 510 BC (Hanson 293). This seems to ring true, as Athenian imperialism was powered by the thetes and the hoplites, the two lowest classes who had previously been excluded from government. Now these two classes, who formed the backbone of the most powerful naval force and one of the most powerful land forces, were able to participate in political affairs. Athenian imperialism also involved converting other city-state’s into democratic styles of government as well. This practice of conversion would only have strengthened Athenian

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