Rethinking Athenian Democracy

I’ve just finished reading Daniela Cammack’s PhD thesis (one chapter was presented recently here by Peter Stone) and would warmly recommend it — it’s mercifully short and extremely readable (available to download on the Harvard website). Chapter 3: The Most Democratic Branch? The Assembly vs. the Courts is of particular interest as it seeks to overturn the view that a) the assembly was the primary institution of Athenian democracy and b) the fourth-century reforms were conservative in nature. Cammack’s interpretation supports Yoram and Terry’s view that the switch in emphasis to randomly-selected institutions was in order to enhance the rule of the demos, rather than being a juridical a check on popular sovereignty (the view of Hansen, Ostwald, Sealey [and myself]). The courts (both legislative and juridical) were much less open to manipulation by elites as a) speech rights were restricted to litigants and persons elected by the assembly, b) isegoria was balanced by the use of a water clock and c) secret voting meant that it was harder to intimidate citizens into voting in any way other than by their considered judgment (aided by the higher minimum age and need to swear the dikastic oath). She provides several examples of assembly decisions that were heavily influenced by factional and elite domination
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