ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on February 19, 2010

Cleisthenes (6th century B.C.) was an Athenian statesman who is generally considered the founder of the Athenian democracy.

He was the son of Megacles, of the aristocratic Alcme-onid family, and Agariste, daughter of Cleisthenes, tyrant of Sicyon, a city near Corinth. Cleisthenes of Sicyon had offered his daughter to the winner of a yearlong competition among suitors invited from all Greece; she was won by Megacles.

The Alcmeonidae alternately cooperated and quarreled with the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus, and Cleisthenes was probably in exile when Peisistratus died in 528. But Cleisthenes was reconciled with the new tyrant, Hippias, and became archon in 525. Another period of exile followed, probably after the murder of Hippias' brother Hipparchus in 514. The Alcmeonidae dien used their influence at Delphi, where they had played a major role in the rebuilding of the temple, to have the oracle persuade the Spartans to depose Hippias. King Cleomenes of Sparta did so in 510, and Cleisthenes returned to Athens to compete for leadership in the new oligarchic government. When his rival Isagoras was elected archon in 508, Cleisthenes turned for support to the common people, who feared the loss of their citizenship and political privileges granted them under Solon and Peisistratus. Isagoras appealed to Cleomenes for aid, and Cleisthenes withdrew from Athens; but the people rose and ejected the Spartans and Isagoras. Cleisthenes then returned and set up a democratic constitution. This may have taken several years, but ancient sources mention nothing of him thereafter.

In 508, Cleisthenes and his party emerged victorious and he set about the work of reform, the principal elements of which were as follows: (1) the four ancient tribes were abolished and ten new ones created in their stead; (2) the numbers of the boule (deliberative council) were raised from 400 to 500; (3) the country was divided into 30 trittyes (three to a tribe), each containing a certain number of demes (townships): every man registered in the deme was enfranchised and voted in the Ecclesia (general assembly); (4) ostracism was introduced.

The Reforms of Cleisthenes

Cleisthenes' reforms changed the basis of Athenian citizenship and the nature of the tribes, which were the political and military divisions of the people. Previously, citizenship had depended upon birth into one of the phratries (brotherhoods). which were subdivisions of the four tribes. Cleisthenes made the basis for citizenship geographical by dividing Attica into more than 150 denies; those living within the boundaries of a deme were put on its roll, and henceforth deme-rolls were the basic citizenship lists. Cleisthenes formed 10 tribes, each composed of groups of demes from the city, the coast, and the interior. The artificial nature of these tribes was meant to break up old regional loyalties and to put city residents in all tribes.

In the democracy the ultimate power lay in the ecclesia, the assembly of all adult males, which passed laws and elected officials. To deliberate beforehand and prepare business for this unwieldy group, Cleisthenes instituted the Council of Five Hundred. It was composed of 50 men chosen by lot every year from each of the 10 tribes, and thus in theory representative of the whole citizen body, although in fact it could not be so until a system of payment for holding public office was introduced. Each group of 50 served in turn for one tenth of the year as a standing committee of the council; known as prytaneis, they ran the day-to-day business of government and presided over assembly and council meetings. Cleisthenes' system prevailed at Athens for centuries with only a few short interruptions, and became a model for other Greek democracies. Cleisthenes may also have introduced ostracism, although this was not used until 487.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Anthony York 

      6 years ago

      cool cool cool cool cool cool cool


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)