The Americans and the Western nations’ political systems and ideologies are in a way based on the ancient Greece and the Romans’ ideas. These countries are not the only ones that were affected. However, most of the ideas that are being used by governments in the world were originally borrowed from Greece (Wolin, 1960).
Issues of Democracy and republican governments are some of the major political ideologies that were adopted from these two ancient states. People’s participation in political constitutions and content has its origins in these societies.
Changes that occurred in Greek city-states and Roman Empire that explain the emergence of specific understanding of politics
Firstly, the ancient Greece was once never a unified state but a conjugant of different nations. The large geographic boundaries that resulted in travel and communication difficulties brought the need for communities to adopt their own governing bodies and councils.
These political units were known as city-states. These city-states, being separated by large geographical terrains, adopted different political systems. For example, the Corinth adopted the oligarchy system of government. Other city-states such as Sparta established mixed forms of government, which constituted both oligarchy and monarchial systems of government. This is how these aspects of politics emerged.
Athens developed a democratic form of government that allowed the citizens to participate in the drafting of the constitution and the governance of their city-states. They purposefully did this to quell the long periods of unrest and conflicts in the city-state. These reforms transferred power from the hands of a few nobles to the citizens thus ensuring political participation.
This is also known as democracy. Democracy is undeniably the most practiced form of governance in the civilized world. The Athenian government was made up of three major segments. These included the assembly, the council and the people’s court. They consisted of juries made up of the citizens. This was in order to oversee cases involving fellow citizens.
Different from the Athenian form of government, the Romans adopted a Republic structure of governance. In this form of government, the elected persons (apart from just governing) were also expected to be responsible and responsive to their voters (Augustine, 1961).
The Romans were the first to draw up a constitution, which was a tool that was later adopted by a majority of governments around the globe. These countries exhibited republican tendencies. These sets of laws written down by the Roman government were, at the time, collectively known as the Laws of the Twelve Tablets. Nations later came to realize that having the laws written down protected the rights of the citizens and shielded them from unfounded prosecutions.
Another important political aspect that was exhibited by these ancient societies was eligibility for political participation. For example, in Athens, the issues of eligibility for political rights and citizenship were seriously upheld.
Therefore, in order to fully participate in politics, one had to be a mature male whose parents were both Athenians. The modern world states and nations that came thereafter came up with various qualifications. For one to be able to participate in politics or to be declared a citizen of the respective nation, he or she had to meet those qualifications.
Philosophers were concerned about the issue of human action since they were greatly engaged in differentiating between activity, passivity, involuntarism and culpable actions. Action became a major philosophical topic in the early 1960s and is slowly becoming a major sub-discipline in modern philosophy.
A causalist school of thought postulates that an individual’s reason for acting is the cause of his or her action. It can be accurately argued that reasons lead to actions. Some philosophers like Harry Frankfurt have tried to explain the concept of human action and has tried to determine its compatibility with the large concept of determinism.
Philosophers argued that political revolutions experienced in the governments of the world were as a result of human action. People are never satisfied with their constitution. They are always grumbling, never quiet and always require that some changes be made on the constitution. Under the concept of human action was another topic of humanism. Humanism marries the concepts of history and human actions.
The concept of eligibility for political rights and citizenship were greatly focused upon and qualifications were set for individuals to meet. The modern world states and states that came thereafter came up with various qualifications for one to be able to participate in politics. Apart from politics, it was also necessary that one met the set standards before being granted complete citizenship of a city-state (Sayers, 1999). The citizens were the only ones who were allowed to own and keep slaves together with all other forms of property.
In Sparta, for example, women were afforded the opportunity and privilege of being literate. This was a different ethical dimension compared to what was the norm in previous years.
This was quite different from what other city-states like Athens did to their womenfolk. The liberation of women in Athens, for example, became an inspiration to the contemporary states and societies to recognize the position of women in the society. Another important issue was the payment of taxes. The ancient Greek, Roman and Greek states lay much emphasis on tax payment. These changes in ethical dimensions formed the economic background of a majority of the states that came thereafter.
Augustine, C. (1961). Confessions. Baltimore: Penguin Books.
Sayers, S. (1999). Plato’s Republic: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Wolin, S. (1960). Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political thought. Boston: Brown & Co.