Athenian Democracy: the Assembly

The following text is useful for those who are taking Greek language lessons or learn Greek by themselves and want to the GCSE Classical Greek exams

The Assembly (Ekklesia, ἐκκλησία) was the regular gathering of male Athenian citizens (women also enjoyed a certain citizen status, but without political rights) to listen to, discuss, and vote on decrees that affected every aspect of Athenian life, both public and private, from financial matters to religious ones, from public festivals to war, from treaties with foreign powers to regulations governing ferry boats.

The Assembly was the regular opportunity for all male citizens of Athens to speak their minds and exercise their votes regarding the government of their city. It was the most central and most definitive institution of the Athenian Democracy. Before 462 BCE, the Court of the Areopagus controlled legislation in Athens, but in that year Ephialtes instituted a reform that diminished the power of the Areopagus and increased the power of the Assembly of the people. This Assembly became synonymous with democracy. When Aristotle describes how the democratic government was restored, after Sparta defeated Athens in 404 BCE, he says that this restoration happened when the People (Demos, Δῆμος) became sovereign over affairs. Under this government, he says, the People administers all business by decrees and by law-courts.

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