Why was Athenian Tragedy an Education for Freedom.
The idea of freedom arose in Greece because of the great challenge posed by the Persians in their attempt to conquer the Greek world. In Athens, this threat solidified the concept of political liberty and later the idea of individual freedom. One of the two key reasons that the Greeks were able to defeat the mighty Persians is that they were a free people fighting against the slaves of a despot. In the 5th Century B.C. there was a difference between freedom and liberty. Freedom suggested the idea of individual freedom while liberty encompassed the concept of political liberty. However, we now use them synonymously. Political liberty at its simplest is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is the notion of people governing themselves using laws with which they create. National liberty for Athenians meant the freedom from foreign control. Athenians believed in freedom of equality, meaning that all citizens are equal under the law. Individual liberty is the freedom to live as one chooses, as long as it does not violate the freedom of another. Athenians had certain individual rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to trial by jury, freedom of expression, and the right to bear arms. They did not, however, have freedom of religionâ€”to be an Athenian meant to worship the Gods that protected the state. It was a duty of citizens (males over the age of twenty) to serve in the citizen army. One could not be a citizen without military service, which is the main reason that women were not citizens. It was also a duty of citizens to serve on juries, which usually had 501 members. Athenians also enjoyed economic freedom based in the idea of equality of opportunity in a free market economy.
The Athenian democracy that won the Persian Wars was a balanced democracyâ€”meaning that the will of the people was checked by a supreme court, the Areopagus, which was composed of aristocratic ex-magistrates.