It all began with bloody conflicts over power and dominance. And in fact democracy would have died out long ago. If it weren’t for...
594/593 BC – The gulf between rich and poor is huge. Riots ensue. The Athenian statesman and lyric Solon is elected into the highest state office to restore piece in the city state. He cancels the debts of the poor and thereby liberates them from servitude under the nobility. All free (male) citizens are allowed to participate and vote in the people's assembly. As a counterweight to the nobility's power, Solon establishes the council of the 400 as well as a people's tribunal. However, the rights of the people to assume a political office are restricted to members of the four wealthy classes. This let's the nobility keep far-reaching influence. Solon writes laws for many spheres of life and has them recorded.
546/545 BC – A new period of tyranny starts under Peisistratos. In 514 BC, his son Hipparchos is murdered during a festive procession. His brother Hippias consolidates his reign at first, but is forced into exile in 510 BC.
508/507 BC – With his ideas for profound reforms Kleisthenes can win over many Athenians and gets a mandate to implement these reforms. He performs a reorganisation, allows more political participation for the citizens and thereby weaks the position of nobility. He founds the council of the 500, which is the highest political office. Annual rotation of its members guarantees the highest possible participation of citizens from all regions. The highest offices are still retricted to the upper class of society. In order to secure democracy, individual citizens can be ostracized by a people's vote. This is intended to avoid a new tyranny.
462 BC – The Areopagis (council of nobles), which is mainly responsible for justice, is deprived of power. Its competences are given to the council of the 500 and the people's tribunals. This advancement of democracy during the nex thirty years is mainly connected with Pericles. As a great orator, he gets elected into many important offices. He introduces daily allowances for participation in the people's assembly and a salary for offices in the council and in tribunals. These are a compensation for missed earnings and therefore allow even poorer citizens to take on offices.