Political Philosophy Lectures - Must understand the...

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Must understand the politics of ancient Greece before understanding the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The tyranny of Greece is how it has an enormous lasting impact on the modern world. Back when the writings of Greek were written, there was no actual Greece as we know it today, there were rather hundreds of city states, or “Polis.” Often when we talk about a certain piece of writing or theory, we are speaking specifically of a specific Polis. To further reiterate the tyranny of Greece, the word Polis is the source of our words politics, politician, metropolitan, megalopolis, etc…. An enormous amount of our ideas and notions and words of politics comes from Greek origins. The Greek Polis was more than a political institution. Besides its political community, it had its own unique culture, religion, athletic life, etc…. Athletics were closely tied to civic spirit. There were very many city states that often warred with each other. They were never unified until the time of Alexander the Great. In the modern day, politics are incredibly large and deal with hundreds of millions of people. The typical Greek Polis had less than twenty thousand citizens. Only three had more: Syracuse, Athens, and one in Cicily. The typical Polis had around five thousand citizens. This was much more of a “face to face society,” where you recognize people. Athens was ridiculously larger, with between three hundred to four hundred thousand people. Of the Athenians, about eighty thousand were slaves. Slavery in ancient Greece was not based on color, rather they were normally people captured by the army. These slaves were not allowed to participate in politics. Aliens also did not have political rights in Athens, nor could they become citizens. This only leaves about one hundred and sixty thousand people in Athens that are not slaves or aliens. Because women had no political rights (often only went into public veiled, and not even that often then), and children did not yet have political rights, the politics were left to about forty thousand adult men. Yet that group divides even more, because often men who worked in the fields or with their hands or did not own property could not be citizens. In truth, only about twenty thousand men could be citizens. It is ironic that Athens is touted so much for Democracy, when in truth, only about twenty thousand people could speak politically for the other hundreds of thousands in Athens. Those twenty thousand people governed absolutely and did so through the Assembly. All citizens (the twenty thousand defined above) would meet in the Agora (marketplace) roughly three times every month to make all of the political decisions. Compared to the pathetic voter turnout we have to do once every four years, that is very remarkable. When they needed a smaller group, they had juries, executive councils, etc….
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This note was uploaded on 05/14/2008 for the course GOVT 1615 taught by Professor Hendrix,b during the Spring '06 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Political Philosophy Lectures - Must understand the...

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