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Democracy and the Athenians: Cleisthenes

4. The Council of 500

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about what was probably Cleisthenes most important innovation – the Council of 500.


In this course, Dr Tom Hooper (University of Cambridge) explores the democracy reforms of Cleisthenes in the early 6th century BC. We begin by thinking about the development of the Athenian constitution in the sixth century, including the reforms of Solon in 594 BC and the Peisistratid regime in the middle of the century. After that, we turn to the events of 508 BC, focusing in particular on whether the democratic reforms that emerged are better understood as a top-down phenomenon, led by Cleisthenes, or a bottom-up one, led by the Athenian people. In the third and fourth modules, we think about two the key elements of Cleisthenes' democratic reforms – first his reorganisation of Attica into demes, trittyes and tribes, and then his establishment of the Council of 500. After that, we think about how the reforms of Cleisthenes could be said to have established democracy in Athens – how did they give 'kratos' ('power') to the 'demos' ('people')? – before turning in the sixth module to the legacy of Cleisthenes' reforms: why did the Athenians of the fifth and fourth centuries not give more credit to Cleisthenes for his role in the establishment of their cherished democratic constitution?


Dr Tom Hooper is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies in London as well as a Lecturer and Fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. His research interests include Classical Athens, particularly Athenian Democracy in the period 508-322 BC, and Greek law and political thought. His book, Democracy and Demagogy: Political Leadership and the Emergence of Athenian Democracy, is forthcoming.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hooper, T. (2018, August 15). Democracy and the Athenians: Cleisthenes - The Council of 500 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hooper, T. "Democracy and the Athenians: Cleisthenes – The Council of 500." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,