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What were some of the important characteristics of Athenian democracy?

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Quick Answer

The system of democratic government that began to develop in the first decade of the 5th century B.C. in the Ancient Greek city-state of Athens was a direct, rather than representative, democracy, and every adult male citizen could participate. An assembly of citizens and a council, or boule, met on an almost weekly basis and was responsible for deciding upon the civic and foreign policy affairs of the city-state. Not only were Athens' citizens encouraged to participate in the assembly meetings, those who did not participate were often ridiculed for their lack of involvement.

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Full Answer

The democracy that developed in Ancient Athens is the first known system of democratic government in the world. In addition to the formation of a citizens' assembly, Athenian democracy put an end to debt slavery, gave citizens the right to appeal the verdicts of magistrates and enabled citizens to seek remedies to personal disputes in a manner somewhat similar to modern tort laws.

Property ownership was not a requirement to hold office in the Athenian government. Elections were held for offices that required a certain degree of professional expertise. Around 462 B.C., payment for participation in a civic service, such as jury duty, was implemented.

Because any citizen could speak before the gathered assembly and council members, the skill of rhetoric, or persuasive oratory, was a valued personal asset in Athenian politics. In the Athenian courts, neither lawyers nor judges were involved and litigants were also expected to speak for themselves.

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