The beginning of the Athens government was a monarchy that developed in an aristocracy, or rule by a land holding elite.  Merchants and soliders did not like the aristocracy.  They thought they deserved more rights.  Foreign artisans, who made crafts for Athens to trade, didn’t like that they couldn’t be citizens.  Farmers had to sell their land to nobles, and also had to sell themsevles into slavery to pay for debt.  Athens began to slowly move into democracy.  Solon started this reform when he became the chief official.  He outlawed slavery for debt, and freed some of the farmers who became slaves for debt.  He gave wealthy citizens high office positons, and granted few foreigners citizenships.  He also encouraged the export of wine and olive oil, which increased the demand for merchants and farmers.  Although he created some freedom for the people it wasn’t enough.

Tyrants started to dominate.  Pisistratus weakened aristocracy.  He gave farmers loans and land.  He also gave the poor jobs in building projects.  Then came Cleisthenes, he setup the Council of 500, which was made of regular citizens.  This was the first legislature.  The Council of 500 only consisted of males over the age of thirty.  Democracy was still limited; many Athenians were still enslaved.  The slaves gave officials time to work on the government, and not to worry about their homes.  Women had no part in public life.  They were in a secluded existence, and managed the household.  They spun, wove, cared for the children, and made food at home.  The boys went to school if the family could afford it.  They studied music, poems, math, reading, public speaking, and had military training.  They kept their bodies healthy by participating in athletic contests.  Athens more or less encourage knowledge instead or strength, unlike Sparta.


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