23 Pages

The People and the State

WithVictor Ehrenberg

In the previous chapters we have seen the people of Athens in the varied and manifold aspects of their life. Origin, social position, vocation, property, intellectual standing, religious beliefs and economic aims — these things created both the individual citizen and the divisions of the population. We must not, however, forget the unity which lies behind this variety, the co-ordinating forces behind those which divide. The people, in fact, were united in the State, a State whose sovereign power was vested in the people. This sovereignty, so far as the expression is justified, was naturally more apparent in politics than in economics. We are not concerned with questions of political institutions and constitutions, but the aspect of democracy as the rule of the sovereign people is also essential to our investigation. The people ruled, because a constitution, though unwritten and informal, had made it sovereign, and it therefore controlled legislation and executive. These are well-known facts, but they do not suffice for our purpose. We are seeking to discover the social basis and effects of Athenian politics, the social features of the democratic State.