Civic Rites: Democracy and Religion in Ancient Athens by Nancy Evans

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By Nancy Evans

Civic Rites explores the non secular origins of Western democracy by way of analyzing the govt of fifth-century BCE Athens within the higher context of historical Greece and the jap Mediterranean. Deftly combining heritage, politics, and faith to weave jointly tales of democracy's first leaders and critics, Nancy Evans provides readers a contemporary's viewpoint on Athenian society. She vividly depicts the actual atmosphere and the ancestral rituals that nourished the folk of the earliest democratic country, demonstrating how non secular matters have been embedded in Athenian governmental techniques. The book's lucid portrayals of the best-known Athenian festivals--honoring Athena, Demeter, and Dionysus--offer a balanced view of Athenian ritual and illustrate the variety of such customs in fifth-century Athens.

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Desert Southwest. The prevailing Mediterranean wind came in from the west, and Attica, being on the east side of a mountain range, received even less rainfall than some of its immediate neighbors. The arable land in the plains of Attica stretched between the mountains and the sea, and it was highly valued for the cultivation of grains—primarily barley, but wheat and rye were also grown. Wheat was the preferred cereal because it was a finer grain when milled, but barley was the preferred crop because it was more drought tolerant.

According to the historian Herodotus, Cylon had married into the powerful ruling family in the neighboring polis of Megara, where the aristocrat Theagenes was then tyrannos. This was well before the rises of Pisistratus, and Cylon had his eye on establishing the first tyranny in Athens. With his supporters Cylon seized the Acropolis. At this time Mega32 cleisthenes cles was probably serving as archon, and under his leadership the Athenians swiftly put an end to Cylon’s coup. When a group of Cylon’s allies took refuge at an altar on top of the Acropolis, Megacles and his supporters promised to let them go if they would hand over their weapons.

Solon was also responsible for innovations in the judicial system: he instituted a new appeal process, and he invented what in Athenian parlance was called a “public” action to supplement the more customary “private” forms of legal recourse. This reform allowed any citizen, not just the injured party or his family, to prosecute certain kinds of injury. Moreover, fa m i ly c u r s e b e h i n d at h e n i a n d e m o c r ac y 23 Solon reviewed the oldest written Athenian laws, the law code of Draco, which had been published just a few decades before his own archonship (perhaps in 621).

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