chapter  II
11 Pages

IDEAS O N DEMOCRACY

T H E Athenians were perfectly aware tha t the establishment of a democracy in a town as populous as theirs was a striking innovation. They were proud of their constitution. Of the three systems of government which the Greeks distinguished one only appeared commensurate with human dignity: the one which opposed the principle of equality to the oligarchic principle and maintained against tyranny the right to liberty. Liberty and equality, this was properly the motto of the Athenians; to it they added fraternity under the name of philanthropy. It was not without a feeling of pride tha t they compared their city with all the others, especially with tha t Sparta towards which all the adversaries of the ideas which they cherished turned with longing. Doubtless the statesmen and poets of Athens indulged in exaggerated praises when they spoke of their constitution; but even these high-flown sentiments have a historic value, for such outpourings reveal to us the soul of a people; it is enthusiasms which reveal an ideal.