Athenian Democracy in the Fifth Century Source Evaluation

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Athenian Democracy in the Fifth Century Source Evaluations:

In order of use:

Herodotus' Histories:

  • Not a native of Athens

  • Lived his entire life during the fifth century (c.484-c.425)

  • The histories written as a long account of the Greco-Persian wars

  • Considered to be the first work of what we consider history, Before Herodotus, no writer had ever made such a systematic, thorough study of the past or tried to explain the cause-and-effect of its events.

5.66: Shows that Cleisthenes gave the Athenian people a far greater role in public affairs in return for their support for him in his power struggle with Isagoras. In fact, he was “having the worst of it” at first, and only won because he “set himself up as a special friend of the people.” Showing that his motivation for democratic reform was more selfish in nature. This is contrary to the view that it was from the people, not Cleisthenes' own accord, who forced him to set up democracy.

5.69: Shows that Cleisthenes wanted a tribal structure distinct from that of the Ionians,' he split the Athenians into 10 tribes (replacing the previous 4) and divided up the demes. This clearly gave him majority support: “With the people won over to his side, the members of the opposing faction were put thoroughly in the shade.)

Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians:

  • Most agree that it was an anonymous pupil of Aristotle, not Aristotle himself who wrote this source.

  • Written in the dying days of Athenian democracy around 330-320.

  • The pupil's work is split into two parts, the first covering the history of Athenian democracy from before Solon to after Pericles and the second was an account of how Athenian democracy worked in his own time.

21-22.6: Tells us that Cleisthenes' reformed the 4 tribes into 10 new ones, named after heroes, they weren't ethnic tribes, but artificial creations that people were evenly distributed into; as cleisthenes wanted to “mix them up so that more men should have a share in the running of the state.” [21.2]

Cleisthenes made the council a body of 500 (made up of 50 people from each tribe) rather than one of 400 (made of 100 from each of the old tribes)

He divided the land of Attica by demes into 30 parts (10 in the city, 10 in the plains and 10 along the coast) and called these parts thirds, and allotted 3 to each tribe so that “each tribe should have a share in all the regions.” [21.4] Each tribe controlled roughly 10% of the demes in Athens. We know that demes were like a large family unit led by a demarch (topic 2)

Chapter 22 tells us about Cleisthenes' adoption of the policy of Ostracism. According to the author, there were personal reasons for implementing this (to get rid of a relative of Pissistratus, Hiparchus in 487) The policy was first used by the people to get rid of the friends of tyrants, and then to

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