Democracy was invented in the ancient city of Athens by Cleisthenes
about 2,500 years ago.
In Greek, ‘Demos’ means ‘the people of the community’; ‘Kratos’
means ‘power’ or ‘authority to decide’. ‘Demos-kratia’ (Demokratia)
means ‘a community run by all its members’.
Nowadays we would call this a “Direct Democracy” as citizens
themselves - not their representatives - decide all policies. In
Athenian Demos-kratia all free adult men (but not women or slaves)
decided all the laws and policies of their society. It was not ‘rule by
referendum’ asking citizens to vote on questions set by others.
Every citizen could propose every law and policy, amend or debate it,
and vote on it.
Denying women and slaves to propose and vote on policy is a major
fault, but in most ancient societies also free men could not decide
policy or law. Only kings or elders made all laws and policies.
Athenian demos-kratia was unique by enabling all free men to vote.
Today we still admire Egypt’s pyramids, but they are not something we
can use. Yet Athenian democracy is something we can use today.
‘Democracy’ is still very much in demand, though its content and form
have been perverted beyond recognition.
Athenian democracy produced the philosophies of Socrates, Plato and
Aristotle. It invented Theatre, Drama, Persona, Tragedy, Comedy, the
plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and the method of proof by
logical argument. We still use them today. They were created in Athens,
not in Sparta which was nearby but was run by two kings and a council
of elders. Philosophy, Theatre, Tragedy, Persona, grew from the public
debates on policy which took place before voting, in a square known as
the ‘Agora’. Every citizen could express his views in the Agora. On
controversial issues there was even a duty (called ‘Parhesia’) to
express views publicly - silence was punished by law.
All citizens debated and voted directly on all laws and policies of
In Athenian democracy there were no elections. Citizens appointed
people to carry out policies. Such appointments were made by lottery,
not by election. Posts were granted for one year only. No one could
serve two consecutive years. Each year new lotteries appointed new
people and the outgoing ones had to account for their deeds and were
punished for failures. Appointing officials by lottery prevented the
formation of an elite and eliminated competition and corruption.
This is utterly different from what we call ‘Democracy’ today. Nowadays
‘Democracy’ means electing a few politicians to decide for all
citizens. This contradicts the meaning and spirit of original
democracy where all citizens decided all policies, without
representatives. Genuine Democracy is Politics without
This is the authentic, original, meaning of Athenian Demos-kratia.