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In order to completely debate this subject you must compare all parts of society and life then to now - that is almost impossible. The past always looks better than the present to some. To other the future looks better than now.

 

[ 24.07.2007, 11:50: Message edited by: Mary ]

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A Little Bit of History:

 

The Sumerian city states of Mesopotamia (Iraq) are believed to have had some form of democratic setup initially. They became monarchies over time, although some limits on the king's power were often retained.

Like Greece 2,000 years later, Sumer in southern Mesopotamia was a culture that arose among many independent city-states which only much later were briefly unified, and then dominated by outside empires. In a pattern repeated in some Greek city-states and in Rome, many Sumerian city-states are believed to have started with a form of democracy, but elected dictators in times of war that later kept power to become permanent monarchies.

Sumerian history - which includes the oldest known written story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, in the world's oldest written language - is far older than Greece and Rome and the surviving records aren't as clear.

One of the earliest instances of civilizations with democracy was found in ancient India, even during the times of the Rigveda, probably the earliest Indo-European literature and one of the most sacred books of the Hindus. The states mentioned are mostly monarchies, but with two democratic institutions called the Sabha and the Samiti. The Sabha (lit., Assembly in Sanskrit) is widely interpreted to be the assembly of the elect or the important chieftains of the tribe, while the Samiti seems to be the gathering of all the men of the tribe, convened only for very special occasions. The Sabha and the Samiti kept check on the powers of the king, and were given a semi-divine status in the Rigveda as the "daughters of the Hindu deity Prajapati"

 

Athens is among the first recorded and one of the most important Western democracies in ancient times; the word "democracy" ("rule by the people") was invented by Athenians in order to define their system of government, around 508 BC. In the next generation, Epilates of Athens had a law passed severely limiting the powers of the Council of the Areopagus, which deprived the Athenian nobility of their special powers; Pericles was the greatest democratic leader, although he has been accused of running a political machine.

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And a Little Bit More:

The traditional founding of Rome was in 753 BC. The Etruscans, early Italian settlers comprised of city-states throughout central Italy ruled Rome for over a century; the traditional dates are 616 BC for the accession of the first Etruscan King, Tarquinius Priscus, and 510 BC for the expulsion of the last king, Tarquinius Superbus. The king was expelled by a group of aristocrats led by Lucius Junius Brutus. The Tarquins were expelled from Rome, and a constitution devised, whereby power rested in the hands of the Roman senate (the assembly of leading citizens), who delegated executive power in a pair of consuls who were elected from among their number to serve for one year.

The founding of the Republic did not mark the end for Roman troubles, since the new constitution was not flawless and there remained powerful external enemies. Internally, one serious threat was internecine feuding of the leading families. Another was the struggle between the leading families as a whole and the rest of the population.. After years of conflicts the plebs forced the senate to pass a written series of laws (the Twelve Tables) which recognized certain rights and gave the plebs their own representatives, the tribunes. By the 4th Century BC, the plebs were given the right to stand for consulship and other major offices of the state.

The beginning of the end of the Republic came when the brothers Gracchus challenged the traditional constitutional order in the 130s and 120s BC. Though members of the aristocracy themselves, they sought to parcel out public land to the dispossessed Italian peasant farmers. Other measures followed, but many senators feared the Gracchi's policy and both brothers met violent deaths. The next champion of the people was the great general Gaius Marius,

 

The temporary ascendancy achieved by Marius was eclipsed by that of Sulla in the 80s BC. Sulla marched on Rome after his command of the Roman invasion force that was to invade Pontus was transferred to Sulla's rival Marius. Leaving Rome damaged and terrorized, Sulla retook command of the Eastern army and after placing loyal puppets to the consul he marched for the conquest of Pontus. When Sulla returned to Rome, there was opposition to his rule by those loyal to Marius and his followers. Sulla, with the aid of a young Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) and Marcus Licinius Crassus, quelled the political opposition and had himself made dictator of Rome.

 

After Sulla's death, democracy was more or less restored under Pompey the Great. Despite his popularity he was faced with two astute political opponents: the immensely wealthy Crassus and Julius Caesar. Rather than coming to blows, the three men reached a political accommodation now known as the First Triumvirate.

After Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his loyal Roman legions in 49 BC., he was considered an enemy and traitor of Rome, and he was now matched against the Senate, led by Pompey the Great. This led to a violent Civil War between Caesar and the Republic. The senators and Pompey were no match for Caesar and his veteran legions and this culminated in the Battle of Pharsalus, where Caesar, although outnumbered, destroyed Pompey's legions. Pompey, who had fled to Egypt, was murdered and beheaded.

Finally, Caesar took supreme power and was appointed Dictator for life over the Roman Republic. Caesar's career was cut short by his assassination at Rome in 44 BC by a group of Senators including Marcus Junius Brutus, the descendant of the Brutus who expelled the Etruscan King four and half centuries before.

After Caesar's assassination, his grand-nephew Octavianus who also was the adopted son of Caesar, was named as his political heir. After some initial disagreements, Antony, Octavian, and Antony's ally Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, formed the Second Triumvirate. Their combined strength gave the triumvirs absolute power.

 

In 31 BC war finally broke out. Approximately 200 senators, one-third of the Senate, abandoned Octavian to support Antony and Cleopatra. The final confrontation of the Roman Republic occurred on 2 September 31 BC, at the naval Battle of Actium where the fleet of Octavian under the command of Agrippa routed the combined fleet of Antony and Cleopatra; Octavian continued on his march around the Mediterranean towards Egypt, receiving the submission of local kings and Roman governors along the way. He finally reached Egypt in 30 BC, but before Octavian could capture him, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra did the same within a few days. The period of civil wars were finally over.

However, he left the majority of Republican institutions apparently intact, albeit feeble. Consuls continued to be elected, tribunes of the plebeians continued to offer legislation, and debate still resounded through the Roman Curia. However it was Octavian who influenced everything and ultimately, controlled the final decisions, and had the legions to back it up, if necessary.

The Roman Senate and the Roman citizens, tired of the never-ending civil wars and unrest, were willing to toss aside the incompetent and unstable rule of the Senate and the popular assemblies in exchange for the iron will of one man who might set Rome back in order. By 27 BC the transition, though subtle and disguised, was made complete. In that year, Octavian offered back all his extraordinary powers to the Senate, and in a carefully staged way, the Senate refused and in fact titled Octavian Augustus ? "the revered one". He was always careful to avoid the title of rex ? "king", and instead took on the titles of princeps ? "first citizen" and imperator, a title given by Roman troops to their victorious commanders. All these titles, alongside the name of "Caesar", were used by all Roman Emperors. The Roman Empire had been born. Once Octavian named Tiberius as his heir, it was clear to everyone that even the hope of a restored Republic was dead. Most likely, by the time Augustus died, no one was old enough to know a time before an Emperor ruled Rome.

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Nice one Mary, but I was aware of most of that! :o Actually, according to Marx; primitive communism preceded the feudal city states (when the priests and nobles began to specialise in administration and religion) fed by the excess food supplied by more efficient farming. :confused: Possibly, the last examples of this "primitive communism" still exist in the Amazonian Forests?! :confused:

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  • 1 month later...

In a way this thread is not relevant to the topic - we don't live in a 'Democracy' we live in a 'Feudal Society' introduced by the invading Norman nobility after 1066/1086 AD and it is they who still sit in the seat of Government today !!! It is from their ranks that you vote, it is in their society that you live, it is they who decide who gets what and why, you pay their taxes, and the Feudal Structure still entirely exists under other names.

 

Who told you that you were living in a Democracy ?

 

And as for Communism - well, a very bad idea that's had its day :angelwings:

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Perhaps if you review the posts MIB; you'll discover that I raised questions about the nature of democracy, as originated in Ancient Athens. Viewed from a number of angles; I agree we cannot cite OUR current system as truly representative of "the people". Indeed, with divergent public opinion, I'm not sure it's at all possible? At best we currently have the minority dictatorship of the educated and articulate (floating) voter; those voters that the Parties are trying to befriend by aiming for the "middle ground". :roll:

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