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Athenian Citizens and Democracy

            The Ekklesia, meeting at the Pnyx, was the frequent gathering of Athenian men designed to listen, discuss, and vote on decrees that affected aspects of Athenian life - both public and private. Demosthenes notes that the role of the men of Athens when debating important matters at the Ekklesia was to "allow freedom of speech to every one of the counsellors," highlighting that the citizens at the Ekklesia were open to share their views, an important characteristic of Athenian democracy. All citizens were welcomed over the age of eighteen, but the Ekklesia was generally limited to those over twenty as youths had to participate in military training duty during their 19th and 20th years (ephebe). Thucydides writes that "administration was in the hands of the many and not of the few", as seen in the amount of citizens that participated in the Ekklesia. The Ekklesia, and thus the Athenian citizen, was responsible for electing strategoi, amending or initiating legislation, enacting taxes and other financial measures, voting on war and peace, nominating and voting for magistrates, receiving embassies from foreign states, and making a number of other state decisions. They also had the power to approve, change or reject any proposal presented to them by the Boule or the various magistrates. Several magistrates were also called to account at the Ekklesia after their year in office and ostracism was also determined through submission of an ostraca, several archaeological pieces such as remains of pottery with names etched into them confirming this.
             As the Ekklesia was an opportunity for all citizens to speak their mind and exercise their votes regarding the government of their city, the Athenian citizen had a substantial legislative and administrative role during the 5th century BC. Citizens were paid for attending the Assembly, to ensure that even the poor could afford to take time from their work to participate in their own government.

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