c. 508 BCE: The Athenian Democracy and Isegoria

The goddess of democracy crowning the people of Athens, c. 337 BC (Photo: Craig Mauzy)


The Athenians develop the world’s first democracy in the 6th century BCE. The right to isegoria or ‘equality of speech’ – including the right to address the assembly – is a cornerstone of Athenian democracy.


This is how the orator Aeschines describes the Athenian assembly:


“the herald … does not exclude from the platform the man whose ancestors have not held a general’s office, nor even the man who earns his daily bread by working at a trade; nay, these men he most heartily welcomes, and for this reason he repeats again and again the invitation, ‘Who wishes to address the Assembly?’”
(Aeschin. 1.27)