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From Athens to Today The Evolution of Democracy The form of political organization that evolved in the polis of Athens over the course of the sixth fifth and fourth centuries BC is one of the most well-known legacies of the Greco-Roman world This idea known as democracy is now widely accepted as the most desirable form of human political organization Moreover the Athenian democracy represents one of the longest periods of popular self-government in human history equaled among modern countries only by the United States The Greek word demokratia can be translated literally as the people possess the political power in the state An Athenian invention democracy is traditionally credited to Kleisthenes but the reforms of 508 and 507 BC that go under his name were the result of many different forces Democracy continued to develop over nearly two centuries from 508 to 322 While democracy got its roots in ancient Greece it is important to make a distinction between ancient democracy and the various modern versions of government under the same name In ancient Greece the government of the people by the people and for the people was carried out directly by the citizens whereas in modern democracies voters who are not necessarily citizens elect representatives to take decisions on their behalf and have no direct access to political power on a day-to-day basis Athens it seems was a direct not representative democracy The structure and functioning of the Athenian direct democracy differed greatly from those of our representative democracy There were no government departments no civil service and only a limited archive system Decisions were taken and executed directly by the Athenian people Much of the appeal of the ancient democracy rested upon the attractiveness of two closely related ideas first that all citizens despite differences in their socio-economic standing should have equal say in the making of state policy second that the privileges of elite citizens and the elite collectively
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