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ROOTS OF AMERICAN
DEMOCRACY
Ancient Greece and Rome
Democracy in Athens
 Athens was a Greek city-state that began to
practice the idea of democracy- rule by the
people
 All citizens could participate in the
government- citizenship was limited to men
who were born in Athens who were free
 Direct democracy- government and decisions
of government are made by the citizens
themselves
Roman Government and the Republic
 509 B.C- beginning of the Roman Republic
 A republic is a government where the people choose
representatives to make decisions and govern on
their behalf
 Roman republic begins as a system dominated by
the wealthy class, but gradually ordinary citizens
begin to be able to contribute
 Roman republic eventually becomes an empire led
by an emperor. People will come to believe that a
government based on democracy can not last in a
large territory
The Fall of Rome and Europe’s “Dark
Ages”
 The fall of the Roman empire circa 500 AD
results in the decline of strong government, a
decline in learning and education, and a
decline in trade
 The Christian church becomes the major
source of learning and organization for
Western Europe
 Most of the advanced societies are in the
East- China, India, and the Islamic World
The Renaissance (Rebirth)
 European travel to the East (mainly through
the Crusades) leads to awareness of learning
in the East and a desire for goods that are
available
 Increase of trade leads to an increased need
for educated people- a “rebirth” of learning
happens leading to new interest in art,
science, and culture
 Invention of the printing press leads to an
increased number of people who can read
and a major increase in knowledge
Lasting Contributions of Greece and
Rome
 Greek philosophy- what is the good life- how
can we attain it?
 First serious thoughts about the ideal form of
government
 Roman law and the legal system- laws
throughout the empire applied to all
 Systems of organization- roads,
transportation networks, city organization
Other Forerunners of American
Democracy:
 English traditions of limiting monarchy’s
power: Magna Carta, Petition of Right,
English Bill of Rights
 Enlightenment Philosophy: Natural Rights,
Separation of Powers, First Amendment
Rights, Skepticism of authority