First of all, the institutions at Athens evolved over time. They did not sit down one day and suddenly invent all of it. No one gave it all to them. Nor was there any sort of 'Constitutional Convention' that debated it.

There have been arguments made that others came first. In some cases these were groups of people talking, but without sovereign power. In other cases, there was the wise king here and there who chose to gather people and listen to them. But if we are talking about a city that had an ongoing institution where each citizen (male citizens, anyway) was equal in standing, where there was no one above all the others, and if we want this to be persistent over at least some short st reach of time - well, I think Athens was first.

This can not be dismissed as cultural imperialism. Other cultures made significant contributions to human life. Athens had faults. But if there was another democratic assembly someplace, where was it?

Last modified 1/28/10;. Original content © 2010 John P. Nordin