Athens – A People of Freedom and Dreams
The people of Athens granted rights and privileges of citizenship to all the lower classes. Every male member of their city-state were given the same rights as the wealthiest politicians. They could buy property, serve in public office, and participate in other aspects of daily life.
Athenian men were highly educated. They began their formal education at the age of seven and continued until age eighteen. The reason that they placed such high importance on educating all young men was because it was likely that everyone would at some point have an opportunity to serve in public life.
Instead of voting for their public leaders, these leaders were selected at random through the process of a lottery. The Athenians believed that any male was capable of making a good leader, and they worried about votes being influenced by those with money or important family names.
The Athenians also introduced the concept of trial by jury. Juries might be made up of more than 1,000 individuals, which they believed insured that no one could bribe them. A decision of a jury had to be made by the majority vote.
This freedom and emphasis on education helped create an atmosphere that would produce some of the most important advancements that the Greeks are credited for; everything from science, to art, to medicine. Athens became a center of culture and education for the entire world.