About the Emergence of Democracy in Antiquity

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When we study history, we hear about kings, wars, and conquests. We discover how people lived in the Stone Age and when important technologies were invented, such as the extraction of copper and iron. We may even hear about the freedom fighters among our ancestors, the Arab or European slave trade, the first explorers, the Chinese invention of gunpowder, or any number of other major discoveries and events.

But there is another history that is at least as important. It is the history of ideas. When was the first time humans wrote down their laws and insisted that people know the law? When was the first time we realized that all humans are equal? When did we stop believing that gods created the laws? When was the first time people decided that the power to rule should not reside with the strongest person, but with the people?

The history of ideas deals with such matters. To understand how democracy came about, and how very long it took before anybody invented it, one studies the history of ideas.

History does not have a predetermined direction. Nothing that happened before democracy “pointed towards” the fact that democracy actually did appear. And nothing happened “so that” democracy could evolve. Nevertheless, it is important to study history and the history of ideas to see how new ideas constantly evolved from existing ones. Before democracy could evolve in Ancient Greece, many ideas, thoughts, and inventions in the ancient Middle East and the Mediterranean area had developed, ideas and thoughts from which Greek culture emerged.

The following chapters cover the history of ideas evolving from early hunter-gatherer cultures of the Stone Age to the rise and fall of Greek democracy and the ideas behind it. The chapters cover several hundred years of the history of ideas and detail many comprehensive series of developments that formed the basis of both Greek and modern democracy. Due to the scope and limits of this work, some may find the lack of detail distressing. But it is meant to provide an overview of where and when some of the ideas evolved, and which ones turned out to be crucial to Greek as well as to modern democracy. Furthermore, there are an additional four chapters covering the events after the ancient Greek democracy.

Next chapter: Hunters and Gatherers - the Supremacy of the Spirits