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.
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.