Friday, April 3, 2015

Digital Scrapbook Entry #7 - Greece
Author: Christopher W. Blackwell
Author: Max Dorfman
Darwinian Democracies and Dictators

The science behind how and why the evolution of states occurs is one that many philosophers, historians, political and psychological scientists believe to be of utmost importance to current governments, and possibly a holy grail in finding how to peacefully prevent violent uprisings, which are the most recorded and remembered, as well as the fastest, way for this evolution to occur. Many people are baffled at how many different ways these uprisings and changes can occur, from a single protestor sparking peaceful protests across a nation, to the violent dissolution of the French monarchy and creation of the French republic in the 1700’s. 
          It is a science that is ever present, and which effects literally everyone in the world. To really study this science however, it is important to look back, at the people and nations which were still discovering new ways to organize themselves, and who were some of the first people to embark on the journey to find a government accepted by all. One of the most influential nations of the Classical Era was Athens, which is also the present day capital of Greece. It was a pioneer in philosophy, defining western philosophy until even present day. They, along with the rest of Classical Greece, defined and categorized governments that would become a basis for many of Western and Middle Eastern institutions and states. The true pride of the Athenian people, and one that they like to remind others of, is their creation of one of the earliest agrarian democratic societies. They often do not cite, however, the long and strife-ridden periods during which the process of national evolution occurred. Many Greek city states went through evolutions similar to this, however none others ended in a democracy quite like that of the Athenians. 
Statue of Theseus in Athens
          In mythology, the Greek hero Theseus, the slayer of the Minotaur, founded Athens by uniting the independent villages and towns of Attica, in a process the Greeks call synoikism, which is the unification of smaller independent cities into one larger state. It is interesting to think that this process occurred so often in Ancient Greece that is was actually granted its own word, which shows in of its self the political landscape of Greece at the time. Theseus then became the first king of Athens, however the truth behind these claims has been called into question, as it is most likely a story invented by Athenians, much like the story of Romulus and Remus of Rome, to increase the legitimacy and greatness of their nation. Either way the outcome is the same, that the small villages of Attica united into a single nation ruled by a king. In this way the story of Athens begins with a king, as most Greek states did, as this is one of the earliest and most common forms of government in the Ancient world. This is because it is very easy for a single, charismatic leader to gain power, and for his offspring to be considered suitable to lead after him. The time of this unification is undetermined, although it probably happened sometime during the eighth and ninth century BCE. Little is recorded during this period, and most recorded documentation on the government occurs after the monarch of Athens abdicates to the wealthy aristocrats of Athens, and so Athens evolves into an aristocracy. An aristocracy is the rule of the many by the few, usually the wealthy elect representatives from themselves to rule the entire population. The reasons for this abdication are not certain, but it
probably occurred because the powerful aristocracy felt the monarchy could threaten their power, the king was weak, or the king had no heirs. There are no records of a revolution, so it probably occurred peacefully, hence calling it an abdication. This aristocracy was organized to be headed by three archons. There was the king archon, war-lord, and one simply known as the archon. At first these positions were held for life, however possibly due to fear of another monarchy or the aristocrats wished to limit the power of the current archons, this was shortened to only ten years. This group grew to include six more archons, for uncertain reasons, as well as the Council of Areopagus, an institution capable of passing judgement on criminals without answering to any governing body. It was one of the earliest forms of a judicial system found in Athens. All Archons served on the Council for life, further solidifying the position of the aristocracy. 
          The evolution from a monarchy to an aristocracy of the wealthy occurred across Greece, however after the aristocrats usually came the tyrants. In the English language, especially in America, the word tyrant usually carries a negative connotation, of an evil ruler controlling his people through coercion. In Ancient Greece, however, it carried a very different meaning. It usually meant a charismatic person, who gained the favor of the people, who ruled the people. Often times tyrants were well liked, and led to reforms in favor of the common man. There is also much more security in
One man rules all
having a strong singular ruler, as decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. The first attempt to install a tyranny recorded in Athens was by a successful Athenian athlete, Cylon. He gained quite a following through his publicity, which eventually led him to attempt to overthrow the aristocracy in the name of the people. Needless to say this failed, and Cylon was slaughtered by the Alcmeonidae family of the aristocrats, an action which left a stain on this family, the family of Pericles, for more than a century. Another change which occurred during this aristocratic government was the introduction of a new, written code of laws. The aristocracy of the time got a man named Draco to write a code of laws for Athens, and the laws he made were particularly harsh, as the only punishment was death, whether the crime be murder or loitering. The constitution of rights he wrote only applied to those who “could bear arms”, which means the wealthy citizens who could afford a full suit of bronze armor, a shield, and a hoplite spear. 
A bust of Solon
          During this time, a series of poor harvests pushed poor farmers to mortgage their lands to the wealthy until they had nothing to give but themselves, this led many Athenian citizens to become slaves to the wealthy, which led to much civil unrest and strife. In an effort to rectify this situation the aristocracy hired a man by the name of Solon to write a new constitution for Athens, one that would please both themselves and the people. The laws he wrote laid the foundation by which radical Athenian democracy would be based, and was often reference by the Classical Athenians themselves as such. These laws included it being made illegal to sell one’s own freedom as collateral, as well as all Athenians being judged by a large jury of their peers, which took the power out of the hands of the Archons and the Council. Solon also divided the people into four separate classes, based on wealth, while only the top three could even be considered for the position of Archon. This is an idea that many modern people claim as counter intuitive to the creation of democracy, yet they forget that Solon’s goal was not the creation of a democracy. A moderately wealthy aristocrat himself, although still an advocate for the people, he still held the interests of the aristocrats in his mind, and was not trying to make a democracy, but a more egalitarian aristocracy. It is claimed that he was so popular for his laws, many considered making him a tyrant. He decided against this, however, and left Athens as to avoid people wishing for him to change his laws. He also changed the election of the archons, making it so that the common people decided on a few candidates that the Council could choose from. In terms of state evolution, the unrest was the environmental strife forcing Athens to create a person like Solon and a new constitution. 
          This new hybrid democracy looks very appealing to modern readers compared to the aristocracy, however the old family lines led Athens to quickly fall into infighting and factionalism. After a series of attempts, in 546, the infighting stopped as Pisistratus became Athens’ first tyrant. He
A common depiction of Pisistratus
ruled for twenty years as a benign and fair ruler, until he died and his sons ruled as tyrants liked himself for another seventeen years. His sons Hippias and Hipparchus were much less liked by the people, as well as the aristocracy. Hipparchus was assassinated, and Hippias was outed by the Alcmeonidae family who invited the Spartan army into Athens. 
          After this expulsion, more factional infighting occurred, however this time it was headed by two main groups. There was the tyrant supporter Isagoras, and the aristocrat Cleisthenes.  In an attempt to gain power, Isagoras invited the Spartans into Athens in order to support his claim as tyrant. The Spartans made the mistake of attempting to purge Athenian society, and Cleisthenes promised reform if the people rose up to drive back the Spartans for him, which they did successfully. This caused Cleisthenes to come out on top of the fights, and just as he promised, he delivered reforms beneficial to the people at that
A bust of Cleisthenes
time. He reformed the laws of Solon and Draco to become that of a limited democracy, in which the people each voted for representatives. It is known to be limited as women and slaves could not vote. He also went through great efforts to solidify the Athenian identity as a single culture, and erase old aristocratic and factional lines. He made the village, or deme, the smallest sub unit of organization, and assigned each one a demarch who could regulate the needs of that area while still answering to Athenian authority. This organization led to more attention for the common people, as each could present issues to their demarch, who could bring it to Athens. People were also told to take the name of their deme after their own, rather than that of their father. This meant that names would run more like “Akakios, of Marathon”, rather than “Akakios, son of Aepos”, allowing for Athenians to feel more united through where they live, rather than divided through family lines. 
          Cleisthenes also sought to solve the problem that has constantly troubled a united Attica, that the coast, countryside, and urban zones of Athens always have different pressing issues. To fix this he organized each of the three zones, and had each one send 50 representatives to the Council of 400. He also introduced the legal ability of ostracism, which allowed the Council to prevent the uprising of tyrants by allowing them to, every year, decide whether or not they wished to ostracize someone. If they chose to, they each wrote the name of a very influential and liked person on a broken piece of pottery, and whichever name received the most votes was forced to leave Athens, and while retaining citizenship and wealth, they were exiled for a period of ten years. This was considered an honor, showing that the person was influential, however it was still very inconvenient. At first it was used to remove supporters of tyranny and relatives of Pisistratus, it later became used on anyone who grew to powerful in influence. In 462 a politician by the name of Ephialtes decided to limit the power of the Council of Areopagus, by causing each member to be voted in. For a time, a hybrid government had existed between the aristocratic Archons, the oligarchic Areopagus, and the democratic Council, but many democrats had decided that time must come to an end. After this, the government was firmly democratic. 
          During the Peloponnesian wars, however, ten Strategos’ were elected to lead the nation, among them was the Alcmeonidae Pericles, who became somewhat of a tyrant through is ability to control the people, while his position just granted him the guise of being democratic. However from the periods of 411 to 404, due to the victory of Sparta and disaster at Syracuse, Athens went from an oligarchy to a democracy, to an oligarchy, and finally back to a democracy. This all ended quickly, however, because the conquest of Phillip II and later Alexander the Great ended the notion of an independent Athenian state for centuries, as the great civilization and pioneer was eclipsed by greater cities such as Rome and Alexandria.

          A quick look at the modern world shows that the same factors causing change in Classical Greece are also present in modern day. In the past century, the Russian state has changed from what is described as a Tsarist autocracy, which on the surface seems very similar to a monarchy to the USSR, a supposedly communist nation. Ever since the dissolution of the USSR in December 26, 1991, the Russian state has changed greatly. While claiming to be a communist nation based on Marxist-Leninist ideals, in reality the Soviet Union was nothing more than an oligarchy, one ruled by
Posters often depicted the kindness of Joseph Stalin
the communist party. These oligarchies were led, in the past, by a man who could very well be considered a tyrant, the most notable being Joseph Stalin. Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist for more than thirty years, and even started to develop a cult of personality around him. A cult of personality is the worship, a word which can be interpreted literally as an act of religious devotion or as simply a metaphor for their utter devotion to the leader, of a certain person, and can often persist after that person's death in the worship of their likeness. In this way the Soviet Union was an oligarchy, which grew 'peacefully', there were political murders and coercion involved, into a tyranny. After the death of Stalin, the nation became very similar to the oligarchy it was before, having a head acting as the speaker behind the party. After the dissolution of this oligarchy, many new nations were released, and the main state of Russia became a federal semi-presidential republic. What this meant, was that a the State Duma and the Federation Council voted on bills and created laws for the nation, while there also exists a President, who can veto bills, as well as a separate prime minister. The president is legally the head of state, while the prime minister is the head of government. When the current president, Vladimir Putin, first rose to presidency after serving as prime minister in 1999, and with the unexpected resignation of Boris Yeltsin, he ascended to the presidency. He then was reelected in 2000, 2004, and 2012, while serving his second term as prime minister between 2008 and 2012. This political success can be contributed, for the most part, to one crucial aspect of Russia and himself. Putin served as a member of the KGB during the Cold War, showing him as a strong and loyal person, allowing him to act as a true patriot for Russia. This, combined with the despair of the Russian people to see their nation back in the front of world politics has led to a developing cult of personality around Putin. This can be seen in the many honors that people from Russia have given him, as well as the number of brands named and styled after him. All of this helps solidify his position even further, causing him to be a modern tyrant. It is again important to note the use and connotation of the word tyrant in this case, as he is certainly admired and liked by the Russian people, and while he has performed crackdowns on protesters and the people of Russia, the cult of personality persists, showing that much of the population still admire him.

          These two cases, each from very different times, are very important in seeing how political science does not change between eras, and while the overall political situation may seem very different, the outcome remains similar. Both Athens and Russia began these changes as what is essentially a monarchy, in which the control rests in a single ruler that passes command in a hereditary fashion to their next kin. In both cases this form of government was replaced due to those underneath, in Athens it was the aristocrats, in Russia it was the proletariat masses, particularly Bolshevik radicals as leaders, wishing to govern themselves in a way they saw more appropriate and useful. The way that the Athenians achieved this is unclear, but it is assumed that they peacefully forced an abdication from the king. In Russia, it took more force, as it required the Russian Revolution, a bloody conflict, to force the Tsar to abdicate the thrown. After both of these events, each nation took a relatively similar path. The Athenians formed an aristocracy, one headed by elected aristocrats, and the Bolshevik party became an oligarchy. In a way these two governments can be nearly identical, as each is the rule of the few over the many, the aristocracy just implies wealth and possible nobility. This could lead one to call the Bolsheviks aristocrats, as over time they began to amass more wealth and power than the average Russian citizen, leading them to live a different, more abundant lifestyle. After this each nation transformed into a tyranny, although in different ways. The USSR became one naturally, as Stalin amassed more and more power, while in Athens several attempts were made, until finally Pisistratus took power. These tyrannies arose as certain individuals gained the favor of the people, as well as enough of the aristocracy, to strong man their way into power. It is natural for this to occur in oligarchies and aristocracies, as the division of power among an entire cast of people often can lead to instability and arguments, as factions form within these parties. This leads to the common people to seek a charismatic leader that can take matters into his own hands and lead the nation themselves, without the problem of infighting and factionalism. While this is often an understandable desire, most people do not think of what comes after the tyrant dies. In a monarchy, the hereditary nature leads to a more fluid succession, in theory, and in an oligarchy or aristocracy it is irrelevant if one should die as there are many. In a tyranny, however, the power only rests in the tyrant because people believe in him, and they have very little reason to believe in his children, and often don't want a return to oligarchical or aristocratic ways. This leads to confusion
Vladimir Putin
and often the same form of factionalism that the people had elected the tyrant to rid themselves of. During and after this time of tyrannies there is often more demand for freedom by the people, often leading to reform. Oligarchies often take hold again after tyrannies, as the previously ousted parties can easily regain support with the promise of a more stable government that is better than the chaos that ensued after the tyrants death. This often leads people to consider what the purpose is for electing a tyrant in the first place. The reforms often brought after the tyrannies are a way for aristocracies and oligarchies to convince the people that they are for them. In the USSR it was the overall relaxing of restrictions and granting of privileges, while in Athens it was outright democracy in the system. Overtime the USSR disbanded and a democratic republic was made. As it can be seen, both governments went through nearly identical cycles, which each led to similar results, however one major difference still remains, Putin. As described before, Vladimir Putin is akin to the tyrants of old, with his cult of personality and extreme control over the state. The previous discussion of tyrannies and their outcomes leads many political scientists to wonder what will occur after the death, or political abdication, will be. Previous examples do not bode well for the security of the Russian state nor its people, and thus it would be prudent for current world leaders to take a lesson out of Antiquity, and be careful to help peacefully move the government of Russia from a tyranny to once again a democratic republic after Putin's death.

French Revolution:
Government Types:
Joseph Stalin Cult of Personality:
Vladimir Putin:

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