What Modern Democracies Didn’t Copy From Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece was a model for the U.S. government, but the founders left a few things out.
“What Athens was in miniature, America will be in magnitude,” Thomas Paine wrote in 1792. Equal parts prediction and promise, Paine’s claim has been realized in many ways: Major aspects of the American political system—from popular referendums to secret ballots to jury duty—derive from ancient Greek precedents.
But while the ancient Greeks are often dubbed the inventors of democracy, only some elements of their political system shaped American practices. The forgotten aspects of ancient Greek politics are numerous and fascinating: voting by hand-raising or shouting, banishment by popular vote, radically direct management of public affairs by average citizens, and many others.
So what exactly did the U.S. copy from classical models, and what has been left out?
Many modern politicians would