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Classics & Ancient History   >   Democracy and the Athenians

The Origins of Democracy

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Democracy and the Athenians

In this course, Professor Paul Cartledge (University of Cambridge) explores compares and contrasts the democracy of Classical Athens with that of the United Kingdom in the 21st century. The course begins by considering the origins of democracy in Athens, thinking in particular about the meaning of the word itself ('power of the people', but who was included in the 'people'?) and the circumstances of its adoption in late sixth-century Athens. In the second module, we consider the key differences between ancient and modern democracy, before looking in the third and fourth modules at two of the key institutions of Athenian democracy—the popular assembly (ekklēsia) and the law courts (dikastēria). In the fifth module, we focus on an institution common to both ancient and modern democracies—namely, the referendum—before turning in the sixth module to consider the future of democracy in the 21st century and beyond.

The Origins of Democracy

In this module, we think about the origins of democracy in Classical Athens, focusing in particular on the etymology of the word itself, which comes from two Greek words: dēmos and kratos. The module ends with a brief summary of the adoption of democracy of Athens against the background of a growing threat in the East.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cartledge, P. (2018, August 15). Democracy and the Athenians - The Origins of Democracy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cartledge, P. "Democracy and the Athenians – The Origins of Democracy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


Prof. Paul Cartledge

Prof. Paul Cartledge

University of Cambridge