Robert Ostwald Greek Citizenship

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Many modern civilizations in the west pride themselves on being democratic societies where every person possesses liberty and equality. Every citizen possesses certain rights that cannot be taken away and every citizen is equal under the law; it is upon this foundation that the institutions of modern democracy are built. However, the idea of democracy is not unique to modern societies in the west. In the fifth and fourth centuries BC, the ancient Athenians developed and implemented a democratic government with principles of liberty, equality, and citizenship. Two authors who explore the democracy, liberty, and equality of both Athenian and modern governments are Martin Ostwald and Mogens Hansen. In his essay “Shares and Rights: “Citizenship” …show more content…

Ostwald notes that while the declaration of independence and the 14th amendment consider freedom and equality rights, Aristotle does not feel the same (Ostwald 165). Freedom and equality are qualities that come from the community to which an individual belongs. Unlike the American notion of freedom and equality, where they are considered individual rights to which every citizen is entitled, the ideas of freedom and equality in the Athenian sense come from society, and these rights are shared throughout the community (Ostwald 165). While this difference in the concepts of freedom and equality is derived from the variance in social values, the very foundation of freedom and equality as stated by Aristotle differs from the one stated by the Declaration of Independence. Ostwald says that the Declaration tells citizens that they are equal, and therefore they have liberty (Ostwald 163). However, from Aristotle’s Politics, Ostwald deduces that the relationship between equality and liberty in Athenian democracy is reversed (Ostwald 163). Ostwald concludes that “Freedom is the precondition for equality, not equality for freedom,” a sentiment that reflects the importance of being “free” in Athenian society (163). As the definition of citizen in ancient Athens was quite limited, Aristotle’s treatment of those who deserved equality made sense. Only men who were already free and had reached adulthood were worthy of those deserving equality. For Aristotle, equality was also derived from the ability to serve in government, which only free men could do, and no citizen, as long as he met the requirements of the state, should be discriminated against. This relationship between equality and liberty is the complete opposite of the American and modern version, which places a heavy emphasis on the inherent liberty of humans,

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