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Athens

“It seems well said of Athens that it produces good men who are outstandingly excellent and bad men who are supremely wicked, just as it produces the sweetest honey and the deadliest hemlock.” Plutarch “Life of Dion” 58.

At the height of its prosperity the Athenian democracy was financed by the harsh exploitation of untold thousands of slaves in the silver mines and Laurium and by the subjection of the tribute-paying allies. The whole citizen population of Mytilene was condemned to death or slavery for trying to secede in 427 B.C., only to be spared at the last moment; there was no such reprieve for the people of Melos in 416. J.C. Mckeown “A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities” 60.

“Our present system of government is the same as it nearly always has been in the past. Some people call it a democracy, whereas other people call it whatever they like. It is actually an aristocracy approved of by the masses.” Plato “Menexenus” 238c

To ensure attendance at the assembly, shops were closed, streets not leading to the meeting place were blocked off, a rope soaked in bright red paint was used to herd citizens to the assembly, and those who did not arrive in time to avoid the rope were fined. Sometime early in the 4th century B.C., payment for attendance at the assembly was introduced. J.C. Mckeown “A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities” 61.

© 2014 by Kirk A. Shellko a.k.a. Lucian Whyte