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Old 02-05-2014, 08:48 PM
 
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Hi guys perhaps someone here can help solve this debate my brother and I are having.

We are writing a short film about a senator from the past who visits 21st America and wonders what happened to democracy. Its a silly movie but the debate we are having is should the representative of early historical democracy be a roman senator or an Athenian? I say the latter because the Greeks had way more concepts about popular and direct democracy. He says the roman because America copies way more from the roman republic than Ancient Greece. But despite that, my reservations are; would a roman speak of democracy?

Would having him give a small speech about the loss of democracy and history repeating itself sound silly? Or would it make more sense coming out of an Athenian?

Please advise.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:34 PM
 
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Neither Rome not America are "Democracies." The are Republics. The difference is that a republic is done through representative government.

A Roman would not speak of Democracy. You brother is correct that Rome is closer to America.

The Roman Republic was an extremely precarious balance of the Aristocrats/patricians/optimates and the common/plebian/populari. The Republic finally gave way to the empire because the Populari faction, in the form of the successors of Caesar, won unconditionally. The notion of Democracy would have been poison to the early republic.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:38 PM
 
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That's what I was thinking too. The Athenian is connected with upholding the virtues of democracy, ie practicing what they preach.

The Roman seems to be associated with hypocrisy. They were a republic and talked of democracy in name only but practiced oligarchy. So that's why I ask; would a roman look out of place if he went into the future wondering what happened to democracy and virtues set forth by his fellow Romans?

Did not Shakespeare use Romans?

Plz keep the comments coming!
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radiolibre99 View Post
That's what I was thinking too. The Athenian is connected with upholding the virtues of democracy, ie practicing what they preach.

The Roman seems to be associated with hypocrisy. They were a republic and talked of democracy in name only but practiced oligarchy. So that's why I ask; would a roman look out of place if he went into the future wondering what happened to democracy and virtues set forth by his fellow Romans?

Did not Shakespeare use Romans?

Plz keep the comments coming!
Not quite, though. They did not "talk" of democracy at all. Democracy had a completely different meaning involving direct voting. The Romans did vote directly, but the laws were drafted by a representative government.

There was nothing hypocritical about the Romans- they were the most successful republic in history. It is just that they voted for a representative government.

Nor is it exactly an oligarchy in that "new men" could join the senate once they had obtained success. And there was the middle level of being an equite.

Any proper republican Roman would be horrified to find that his country had an emperor, which is why Augustus was careful never to call himself one.
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:12 PM
 
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Some excerpts from the Roman:

1.) what has become of democracy?

2.) virtues set forth by my countrymen were for naught?

3.) the will of a nation bends to the whim of a few.

4.) we should listen to the majority for that is true democracy.

Those are some lines from the script. Does that sound like something a Roman Senator would say or an Athenian?
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radiolibre99 View Post
Some excerpts from the Roman:

1.) what has become of democracy?

2.) virtues set forth by my countrymen were for naught?

3.) the will of a nation bends to the whim of a few.

4.) we should listen to the majority for that is true democracy.

Those are some lines from the script. Does that sound like something a Roman Senator would say or an Athenian?

I would have the Roman saying: "What has become of the Republic?"

I would have an Athenian saying something like this.

Of course you do have to remember that the Athenians of the classical era witnessed their democracy deteriorate due to demagoguery in their own time, so you would have to be careful about when this hypothetical citizen was around.
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by cachibatches View Post
I would have the Roman saying: "What has become of the Republic?"

I would have an Athenian saying something like this.

Of course you do have to remember that the Athenians of the classical era witnessed their democracy deteriorate due to demagoguery in their own time, so you would have to be careful about when this hypothetical citizen was around.
You would have the Athenian say something like what? Like the excerpt I posted fit the Athenian better?
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:42 AM
 
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I think the question was well answered.

The united Greece was a democracy. Greece became a mob and mob behavior took over. The majority could vote its leaders to be exiled or its thinkers to swallow hemlock. Majority rules you know. Mobs don't always know their own self interest in the mid to long term. Just today I don't like this or that.

Rome a representative republic.

Greece deteriorated and collapsed under its democracy. Romans said that is illogical and formed a republic which deteriorated as it became Caesar's empire. Rome did not like kings either.

So they were different. Depending upon what you are doing, pick on or the other.
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Old 02-06-2014, 09:10 AM
 
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Or would it make more sense coming out of an Athenian?



Great question. And I'm with those Athenians. Hey they did the hard work! And you wouldn't be wrong to call that senator Pericles. Of course, democracy in the ancient world was a bit different than in our modern day. But arguably he was a catalyst of that democratic' tradition where there was true egalitarianism where the masses were fully sovereign. He held things together through leadership and was a political genius of the polis. Much to be said of Periclean Athens in the development of democracy!
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Old 02-06-2014, 11:59 AM
 
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I agree with cachibatches position. The quotes presented would be much more appropriate coming from an Athenian then a Roman. As pointed out, Rome was a republic which is not a democracy. Athens was a democracy. Of course, that was just at cetain points in time in the case of both. The American system is more similar to that of Republican Rome then it is to Athenian Democracy.
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