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Citizenship in Athens and Rome

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Today, we take for granted our citizenship in the United States. As long as we were born here, we’re a citizen. It wasn’t always like this in the world. Athens and Rome both had certain systems of citizenship they followed. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today. A big question, though, is which system was the best. I believe that both Athens and Rome had their strengths and weaknesses in their systems. As to which I think is better, I can’t choose. The Roman Republic was more tolerant of whom they allowed to be citizens, but that’s not always a good thing. Athens had a better way of election, but was random. Both had good ideas about the judgment of citizens, but in both someone could take advantage of their power.

The Roman Republic was more generous in granting citizenship than Athens. They allowed free, native-born adult males, as long as their parents were married in certain areas of the Roman Empire. They allowed free, native-born adult females, but with limited rights. Both female and male children were considered citizens as long as their parents were citizens. Also sons of freed slaves could access citizenship. The only ones that were granted citizenship in Athens were free, native-born adult males. Rome’s system was more equal, but in the end could cause problems with conflicts between everyone, trying to get what they want.

Apart from who they allowed to be citizens, their ways of election were also different. In Athens, they had election by lottery meaning that every person had an equal chance. This was fairer than Rome’s inheritance of their position in the Senate, but it was completely random, and the most ineligible person could be chosen. In order to make important decisions like laws or ostracisms, there needed to be a minimum of six thousand. Rome only needed three hundred to form the senate.

Another thing was their judgment of citizens. In Athens, they would perform an ostracism in which the citizens would write the name of the person whom in their opinion had the most power to destroy the government. The person with the most ostraka would be exiled for 10 years. Rome, on the other hand, would rank the citizens into different classes according on their wealth, heritage, marital status, physical and moral fitness, ect. This determined what they got to do, how much they had to pay, and other things like that. If they didn’t meet the standards, they weren’t given as many privileges. Both could be taken advantage of if someone of higher status was intimated by another or in other similar situations. All they had to do was vote and get a large number of others to try and exile him in Athens or lie about the standards someone has to meet in order for them to be demoted in Rome.

As you see, both Athens and Rome had very flawed systems that could cause conflict. That might even be the reason for their fall.

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