Democracy in The Classical Age Vs. The Middle Ages
Democracy is a government ruled by the people. Throughout history, democracy has changed greatly. Many of these changes in democracy occurred during the Classical Age of the Greeks and Romans and the Middle Ages. Changes were made regarding separation of power, equality, and natural rights. Although thought significant changes were made during both the Classical Age and the Middle Ages, democracy flourished to a higher level in the Middle Ages.
Separation of power is used to prevent a single entity from becoming too powerful. In the Middle Ages, the separation of power between Parliament and the king showed that democracy was greater than during the Classical Age. During his reign, William the Conqueror changed the feudal system in England to weaken the lords. William required each feudal lord to swear allegiance to him, causing all the lords to become vassals of the king. By weakening the lords, William prevented them from uniting and becoming too powerful. If the lords did unite, they could have possibly taken over the country and rule even the king. On June 15, 1215, English nobles forced King John to accept the Magna Carta. After William’s weakening of the lords, the King gained too much power and the nobles had very few rights. The signing of the Magna Carta protected the liberties of the nobles and prohibited the king from disobeying any laws that the citizens had to obey. In 700 B. C., Greek nobles had generally overthrown the king. The nobles were counted on by the Greek government to supply cavalry and other services. When the nobles gained land and power, many small farmers were forced to sell or mortgage their farms to nobles in order to get money for food. This power over the government made the nobles very rich and too powerful. The Middle Ages had many changes between the king and Parliament to separate power equally and prevent anyone or anything from becoming too powerful. During the Classical Age, however, the nobles had more power than anyone else and could control the king. There was no separation of power at the time. This shows how undemocratic the Classical Age was. Besides separation of power, another thing that is required in a democratic society is equality.
Equality is the idea that all citizens are equal and that none of them are above the law. In the Middle Ages, equality was more prominent than it was during the Classical Age, which emphasizes the highly democratic government at the time. In the Middle Ages, Feudalism allowed anyone to own land as long as they had something else to give. Lords gave a small amount of land to anyone who could provide loyalty some sort of service such as, food or military services. Chivalry allowed any boy to become a knight through proper training. After training as a page and a squire, a boy had learned enough to become a knight. This allowed even lower class citizens to be trained and rise to a knight, giving everyone an equal opportunity to become a knight. During the Classical Age, Greeks were divided into groups. Women, metics, and slaves had no political rights and could not vote. Metics were people who were born outside of Athens but lived in the Greek city-state. This made the majority of the people in the lower class and gave them unequal rights. In comparison to the Middle Ages, people in the Classical Age had fewer rights and the lower class citizens were unequal to those of the higher class. For equality to prevail, natural rights must be enforced.
Natural rights are life, liberty, and property. These are things that human beings are entitled to have. In the undemocratic times of the Classical Age, citizens had very few natural rights compared to the citizens living during the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, anyone had an equal chance to prove their innocence through trial by battle, compurgation, or trial by ordeal. Punishment for most crimes was death, so the ability to prove oneself innocent gave one the right to live. Also, anyone in the Middle Ages could work for money and/or property. Land and other items could be bought, received as a gift, or acquired through marriage or inheritance. To be able to own property and use it for whatever purpose it is the natural right of a human and a vital part of democracy. During the Classical Age, many upper class citizens owned slaves. Slavery deprives a human of their control and
freedom of life. They can only do what they are told and are punished for doing things that would be encouraged for people who are not slaves.
Democracy in the Middle Ages was much more prominent than in the Classical Age. Separation of power in the Middle Ages prevented the uprising of high powers into dictators. Equality disallowed anyone to be above or below anyone else. Natural rights gave all citizens the right of life, liberty and property. These things all contributed to the democratic time of the Middle Ages.
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