What Ancient Civilization Started Democracy?

Democracy, which is often regarded as the cornerstone of modern governance, is a political system in which power lies with the people. The ancient Greeks are credited with starting democracy, but which civilization was actually the first to practice it? Let’s take a closer look.

Origins of Democracy

The concept of democracy originated in ancient Athens, Greece in the 5th century BCE. However, it wasn’t until several centuries later that a civilization actually practiced democracy as we know it today.

Ancient Civilization That Started Democracy

The ancient civilization that first practiced democracy was the Iroquois Confederacy, which was formed by five Native American tribes in what is now New York State. The Iroquois Confederacy was established around 1142 CE and is considered to be the oldest participatory democracy in the world.

The Structure of Iroquois Democracy

The Iroquois Confederacy operated under a system called the Great Law of Peace, which was based on consensus-based decision making. This meant that important decisions had to be agreed upon by all members of the confederacy before they could be implemented.

Role of Women in Iroquois Democracy

One unique aspect of Iroquois democracy was the significant role that women played in governance. Women were responsible for selecting leaders and had the power to remove them from office if they failed to meet expectations.

Ancient Greek Democracy

Although ancient Greece is often credited with starting democracy, their system was quite different from modern democracies. Athenian democracy only allowed free men who were born in Athens to participate in politics and make decisions. Women and slaves were not allowed to vote or hold office.

The Legacy of Ancient Democracies

Despite their limitations, both ancient Greek and Iroquois democracies were important milestones in the development of modern democracy. They laid the foundations for the concept of rule by the people and inspired future generations to continue to refine and improve upon democratic systems.

  • Conclusion: While ancient Greece is often credited with starting democracy, it was actually the Iroquois Confederacy that first practiced true participatory democracy. This system, which included decision making through consensus and significant participation by women, was a pioneering model for modern democracies across the world.

In conclusion, understanding the origins of democracy is important for appreciating its significance as a political system. While ancient Greece played a crucial role in developing democratic ideas, it was the Iroquois Confederacy that can be credited with being the first civilization to put these concepts into practice. Their legacy continues to inspire modern democracies around the world today.