Cleisthenes (also Kleisthenes) was an Athenian politician in the latter half of the sixth century B.C.. He held the position of archon, under the tyrant Hippias in 425B.C.. However, in the latter part of Hippias' reign he and his family went into exile and bribed the Delphic Oracle to tell Sparta to invade Athens, and depose Hippias. The Spartan king Cleomenes did this, and in the power vanccum that followed Cleisthenes competed against Isagoras. Isagoras got the archonship for 508 B.C. however Cleisthenes gained popular support for his proposed democratic reforms. Isagoras appealed to Cleomenes, who returned with a small force, to drive Cleisthenes into exile. The populace of Athens was against this, and Cleomenes was forced to withdraw, and Cleisthenes returned.

Cleisthenes reorganised the political system of Athens, instituting the system of demes, trittyes, and phylai, through which all future political organisations of Athens were based. There were 139 demes grouped into either coastal, rural, or urban, membership of demes became hereditary through the male line and irrelevant to residence. The deme assembly could appoint any officials it wanted to making it in effect a miniature polis. There were 30 trittyes which consisted of one or more demes of the same type all in a neighbouring block, the number of demes in a trittyes depended on the size of the demes. There were ten phylai named for local heroes, each consisting of 3 trittyes, one coastal, one rural, and one urban, so that each phylai had similar interests rather than an urban phylai competing with a rural phylai for the distribution of public funds. The phylai became brigading units for the army and to some extent for the navy as well. The phylai also acted as constituencies for the majority of public appointments, for example each phyle would elect one of the ten generals, an office created by Cleisthenes. This underminded old channels of influence, and provided means of political power at the lower level. The Boule was a council of 500 members elected by lot for one year, each tribe would provide 50 members proportionately selected from each deme. Solon had divided Athens into 4 property classes, the five hundred bushel men, the knights, the hoplites, and the rowers, of these only the poorest, the rowers were inelligible to sit on the council. The Boule's primary job was to decide business to be brought before the Assembly, to get a topic raised a member would have to bring his request to the council who would consider it or he could use a friend on the council to raise it. The groups of 50 would each serve as prytaneis for one month. The prytaneis was the executive body of the Boule, they were on duty every day and planned meetings of the council, they also received envoys and letters of state. Every day a different member of the prytaneis was picked to be the epistates, who remained on duty for 24 hours with the members of his trittys in the prytaneis, he had the keys to the treasury and chaired any meetings of the Boule or the Assembly. The prytaneis were ordered by lot so no one phyle would always be responsible for the collection of tribute or any other important annual event. The archonship was made open to members of the top two property classes, namely the five hundred bushel men and the knights, and so the Areopagus was made open to these two classes as well. Cleisthenes kept a large amount of power with the Areopagus and so his was an aristocratic democracy until Ephialtes turned it into a radical democracy. He is also credited with the creation of ostracism.

Cleisthenes is regarded by many as the father of Athenian democracy although Solon also has claims to this title.

Cleisthenes was also the name of a tyrant of Sicyon, he is believed to have been born around 665B.C.. He gained power in 600B.C. and he is linked with a movement against the Dorian ascendancy in Argos, Dorian tribes were given insulting names, non-Dorians were referred to as the "ruling people", a Theban hero replaced an Argive one, and Argive rhapsodies were suppressed. He featured in the First Sacred War where he was responsible for the destruction of Crisa. His side eventually won the war, defeating Sicyon's neighbour Corinth. His reign came to an end in 570 B.C. although he lived on until 565B.C..

In the first ever Pythian Games at Delphi he won the chariot race. His daughter gave birth to the Athenian Cleisthenes described above.

Finally Cleisthenes was also the name of a prominent Athenian homosexual, who lived during the Peloponnesian war. Aristophanes mentions him in several of his plays, always in a derogatory fashion.

An Athenian statesman, and the founder of the Athenian Democracy. Kleisthenes was a member of the influencial Athenian noble family the Alcmaeonides, and was one of the most active leaders of the opposition to Peisistratus, and especially to his sons Hipparchus and Hippias, by whom he was sent into exile. In 515 BCE he lead a group of exiled nobles in an attempt to overthrow Hippias, but failed. He then addressed both the Oracle at Delphi and Sparta in a request of assistance. And finally in 510 King Kleomenes of Sparta sent troups to Athens in order to overthrow the tyrant. After Hippias was overthrown Kleisthenes formed the democratic constitution of Athens.

Kleisthenes: Third step
Kleisthenes (or Cleisthenes) came into power with the support of the city civilians, who were behind him because he offered them a set of reforms. Although now we see Kleisthenes the founder of Athenian democracy, the ideas were in the first place meant to establish a powerful position in the polis for his family the Alcmaeonides. However, the reforms by Kleisthenes are considered the third important stadium in the development of Athens towards a democracy, after the social and constitutional measures by Solon and the economic actions by Pisistratus.

New structures
Essential in Kleisthenes' reforms was the destruction of old archaic social cohesions called phratrie and phyle. The structure in which people got their position through birth was replaced by a territorial structure in which this position depended on the place where they lived. The whole polis area was divided in three parts: city, coast and inlands. In Greek history there already was a tradition of the threefold division on territorial basis, but the city was new in this thanks to urbanization.

Each of the three parts was divided in a quite complicated way. Basically it came down to a system where every citizen belonged to a phyle, but then in a new meaning of the word. There were 10 of these - evenly sized - in all Athens and each phyle contained people from city, coast and inlands. According to Herodotes, the old phylae were called after the four sons of Ion: Geleon, Aigikores, Argades and Hoples, but the new tribes carried names of local heroes, except for Ajax, who was honoured for his merits as good neighbour and ally.

Improvement to democracy
Why did this improve the democratic process? Well, because the aristocracy was now separated from its traditional supporters. This meant that a more equal position of all citizens in a fyle was possible and the aristocracy lost some of its influence.

Council of 500
An important consequence of Kleisthenes' new system was the replacement of Solon's Council of 400 by a new Council of 500. In this council, 50 members per phyle were drawn out of a reservoir of chosen candidates. Each year there were new elections and in theory it was not possible for a candidate to get in the council twice (this was changed later). Formally the people without land, the thetes, could not enter the council, neither could anyone before the age of 30.

The council met almost daily and its basic function was probouleutic: it was the daily board of the boulè, the real public national assembly. The council of 500 decided the agenda for the boulè, which is an important thing to remark. Although the boulè was souvereign, all cases had to pass the council first! This probouleuma provided the council with great power.

Of course, the final decision lay with the people, who came together approximately once every nine days. Most of the times the public assembly agreed with the probouleuma, but they also could amend or decline. Each citizen had the right to take the stand in the assembly. In Kleisthenes' times, the approximate number of people attending the boulè lay around 6000. Estimations of the total number of people entitled to vote vary from 22000 to 43000 in the 5th century b.C..

The magic number
Under Kleisthenes, 10 was the magic number, so each phyle would be represented fairly. Therefore the college of archons was extended to 10 men. Also, Kleisthenes ordered the functions to be drawn and not divided. This was meant to be a remedy against the heavy battle for archon eponymos, the highest position in the college. Clearly this meant a weakening of the college towards the public assemblies.

Power to the people
From Kleisthenes' times, exertion of power was obviously bound to a new democratic structure. Since each year 500 new citizens were confronted with a load of policial insights, soon a great deal of people had political experience. Even when these people had left the Council of 500, they still had the opportunity to influence politics in the boulè, which thus grew in power as well.

Last but not least, Kleisthenes introduced the interesting phenomenon ostracism against potential tyrants.

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