Decree of Athenian Assembly
Courtesy of Classroom
Athens was the birthplace of
democracy. Other places in the world had kings, pharaohs. or emperors. This concept was
introduced by a statesman named Cleistheses in 509 B. C. Cleistheses divided the Athenian
citizens into small communities called demes. Demes were grouped together into ten tribes.
Each tribe had an equal number of citizens.
Between 508 - 338 B.C. Athens
formed a government called demokratia. It was ruled by the people. Every ten days the male
citizens met in an assembly called the ecclesia. Each man who wished to could speak or
propose laws. The men voted to determine the final laws.
Metics, slaves, and women were not
considered citizens and were not allowed to participate in this process.
At times the police had to gather
the Athenian citizens so there would be enough to participate. They used ropes dipped in
bright red powder. The men were embarrassed to go to the Pynx, the assembly, with red
marks. Soon almost every citizen was participating in the assembly.
Before each assembly pigs were
sacrificed to the gods. The priest used the pigs' blood to draw a sacred circle around the
assembly. The meetings were usually very long with so many speaking. Food and drinks had
to be served.
Because the meeting became so long
the number of citizens participating in an assembly was restricted. Fifty citizens were
allowed to participate for one tenth of the year. This group made the policies and rules
which were later voted on by the entire assembly.
Every 24 hours a new president
called an epistats was drawn from a container. This way each citizen could hold the
position. Each magistrate was elected for one year. Pericles was so well liked that he was
reelected 30 times. The assembly could vote to banish a statesmen. This often led to a 10
year exile.The names of banished citizens were written on stones for everyone to see.