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Athenian democracy (Αθηναϊκή δημοκρατία) Posted by on Dec 14, 2011 in Culture

Everyone is familiar with the term of democracy. But how many people ever wondered when did it started and what are the similarities and the differences with the democracy as we know it today.

This is a very brief overview of the very first democracy.

Democracy has its roots in ancient Greece.The name comes from demos (δήμος) that means people and kratos (κράτος) which means power. So, literally is the power of the people.

Democracy didn’t appear suddenly out of the blue. It was established as a result of continuous reorganizations. Social and political changes have been started already from the 8th century BC. The need of equality among the Greek citizens led to the first democratic regimes. Democracy has been developed and improved throughout the years reaching its zenith in the 5th century BC with the Athenian model.

The Athenian Democracy in the Golden Age of Pericles(Χρυσή εποχή τουΠερικλή) the 5th century BC accomplished what none of those other who have copied democracy subsequently managed to accomplish: The real power of the people to rule, administrate their own property and manage their affairs. The greatest and the longest lasting democratic leader was the Pericles(images). This is where the name of Golden Age came from.

At that time, any male over 30 years old that satisfies the following requirements could be elected. He has to be a citizen of Athens (Αθήνα), to have Greek education (Ελληνική παιδεία) and has to not be homosexual (“kinedos”, “Κίναιδος).

After the election, all his personal and family assets were recorded.

If during his service, he voted a law or he had participated in a law creation that was leading to an affliction of the state and the citizens then, after the estimation of the damage that he had caused, his property was sequestrated until the full compensation of the loss. 

If the damage was greater than his fortune, he was obliged (after having his and his relatives’ property confiscated) to work unpaid for the government until he would have paid off the rest.

This was the case for a financial loss to the State of Athens. What if, however, the decision which he had taken or had participated caused moral damage to Athens?

Then the situation was even worse. He would be convicted to death penalty on the very same day so that he will not have any chance to escape!

Another great difference with the current democracy model is that the Athenian democracy was direct rather than representative. That means that people didn’t vote politicians to represent them. All Athenians voted on just about every law or policy the city was to adopt.

As per the voters, only adult male citizens of Athens where allowed to vote. Women and slaves had no right to vote.

Here you will find some vocabulary and phrases relative to the article:


Ρίζες (rizes)


Aρχαίος (arheos)


Πολιτικό (politiko)


Πολιτεία (politeia)


Απόγειο (apogeio)


Δύναμη (dinamee)


Πολίτης  (politis)


Περιουσία (pereeouseea)


Θάνατος (thanatos)


Αντιπροσωπευτικός (adiprosopeutikos)


Νόμος (nomos)


Άνθρωποι , λαός (anthropee, laos)


The very first democracy

Η πρώτη δημοκρατία (i proti dimokratia)

Who could vote?

Ποιός μπορούσε να ψηφίσει;(pios borouse na psifisee)

Any male could vote

Κάθε άρρεν μπορούσε να ψηφίσει (kathe aren borouse na psifisee)

Women and slaves could not vote

Οι γυναίκες και οι σκλάβοι δεν μπορούσαν να ψηφίσουν (oi gynekes ke i sklavoi den borousen na psifisoun)

Was this system fair?

Ήταν αυτό το σύστημα δίκαιο;(itan ayto to systyma dikeo)

There is a difference between now and then

Υπάρχει διαφορά μεταξύ τώρα και τότε (yparxei diafora metaksi tote kai tora)

Convicted to a death penalty

Καταδικασμένος σε θανατική ποινή (katadikasmenos se thanatiki pinee)



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