The government of Ancient Greece – Greek democracy and tyranny Essay
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There was no central government in ancient Greece, actually, the Greeks had different types of government as they lived in city-states where each city-state was independent and self-governing. The existence of the city-state provided a basis of political thought as it was not stationary like other countries. A polis was a city-state which was a major city and the surrounding areas such as Athens. A new form of the political system came in Athens which was a democracy where demos meant the people and crazy meant rule so democracy signifies rule by the people.
Athenian democracy was direct where all citizens voted on all laws but not everyone was considered as a citizen of Athens. The only free man was considered as citizens so women, children, and slaves were not citizens hence not allowed to participate or vote but at least more power was offered to lower classes of society.
The government was divided in three the assembly, the council of five hundred and the courts where the assembly included all citizens who showed up to vote, the council was determined by lottery so every citizen had a chance despite their popularity and wealth. While the courts took care of lawsuits and trials. After the Peloponnesian wars between Athens and Sparta, the Spartans changed the democratic government with oligarchy. Political science owed its existence in Greece in order to correct a false theory, moreover, the political thought began with democracy. The political condition of each state produced a growth of political thought since each polis was the self-governing community whose relation to its members had to be studied. Also because the existence of different cities which each of them knew their identity suggested the search for the ideal as the real was manifold and the ideal state would serve as a standard. Plato who was an ancient Greek philosopher was born in Athens in the early 420bc and died in 347.
He was an Athenian who worked and lived in Athens, Plato lived through the democratic government in Athens and through the oligarchy period. Plato was highly influenced by his teacher Socrates who was a critique of democracy, in fact, he tried to influence the young man of Athens to do not follow the path of the elders as they used democracy for their own gain. His criticism leads to his execution but all he was doing is alerting the Athenians to their flaws. The execution of his teacher was the main factor that Plato didn’t take an active role in politics as Socrates for Plato was the justest man of his time intact the majority of his ideas regard the system of justice and his perception of how the system functions in society, represent those of Socrates.
His major achievements are represented in dialogues which most of them feature Socrates. Plato both rejected the unreasoning democracy and the oligarchic rule. He was the first ancient thinker to write about the subject of politics in the republic, the statesman, the laws and few shorter dialogues. An idealist like Plato tried to discover standards of thought and behavior in order to improve the political condition and believed in the moral imperative to have more justice in politics. Socrates and his pupil Plato criticised the government and were both let down by humanity. In the Republic, Plato shows the primary notion of political, justice and then to acquire a similar concept of individual justice. It’s concerned with the problems of moral and political life but it also shows the unity of all things in the idea of the good and talks about education and political science which give an idea of the proper government and proper laws to determine an ideal state. Plato is interested in the substitution of the existing patterns of political life to a new order and his view of the proper aim of society to grant the setting for the achievement by its members of virtue and their happiness.
The moral rightness must be taken into account for those in power as the right action, virtue, is that which matters for each individual and on which his happiness depends. The moral knowledge which helps each individual to make the right behavior attained through reason and the function of government which is to approach the good of the governed forms the political thinking of Plato in the republic. Socrates as the true statesman in the republic which has philosophical knowledge works for the improvement of the morality of his citizens. The republic accumulates a rational case for choosing justice instead of injustice. Plato starts by developing his imaginary ideal state by dividing it into threes classes the rulers, the fighters and the farmers where each of them has their distinct social role. The philosopher guardians as rulers unite political power and authority with their philosophical knowledge in order to construct a political system with a system of socialization and education that will dispense benefits of this specialized knowledge among the citizens.
Plato tries to show that individual justice reflects political justice he states that each soul of every individual has a three-part structure which is compared to the three classes of a society. Everyone has three primary kinds of desires which are spirited, appetitive and rational where the spirited ones like the rulers have their desires for honour and approval, while the appetitive which are the fighters who take happiness for their satisfaction of their appetites and the rational ones like the farmers who take it to consist in the achievement for truth and the overall good. In the just city, the principle of specialization is important as it restricts each class for its one social role which is its best fit.The just individual can be defined in comparison with the just society. In the virtuous soul spirit is associated with reason where it recognises the legitimate needs of other elements also the virtues soul is compared to those of the city.
This reflects how the rulers serve in a just city who are wise because of the spirited part who rule in the interests of all classes unlike the unjust cities like timocracy, democracy, oligarchy and tyranny which rulers rule by force. According to Plato, the fundamental goal of political education is to train the desires of people turning them around from what they think happiness is to the pursuit of true happiness. The famous metaphor of the allegory of the cave demonstrate the effect of such education. Socrates describes the experience of a man who is released from his ties who find the light painful but after a while he starts to see the world as it really was and such an enlightened man also reacts to the petty games and fight for those who are still in the cave.