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This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka,   

The entire text of Historical Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.   

The Parthenon - Greece

Greece is one of the three peninsulas extending into the Mediterranean Sea in the south of Europe. The capital of modern Greece is Athens. It is a very old city and dates back to a time long before the Birth of Christ, according to which we divide time into BC and AD. In that early period, Greece consisted of different city-states. Each was independent of the other. The two strongest city-states were Athens and Sparta. 

In those days, most developed areas were river valley civilizations, established around rivers in fertile areas that were good for agriculture. These civilizations were generally kingdoms, with power in the hands of a single person. In Greece however, there was more participation by the people in government, and it is from the Greeks that we get our idea of democracy. The word democracy comes from two Greek words, ‘demos’ which means people and ‘kratos’ which means power. 

The Acropolis


The concept of democracy was most developed in Athens. All Athenian citizens used to come to a hill in Athens every nine days to argue, make speeches and vote. Being a citizen meant more than voting. It meant holding office in government, and also acting as a juror, that is participating in making decisions in the courts. Every citizen was expected at some stage in his life to do his share of duty as an office holder and a juror, and to make sure this happened many such positions were allocated by lot, rather than by election. 

However this form of democracy was not perfect. The Athenian idea of a citizen was not the same as today. Only men were considered citizens. Women and slaves, as well as foreigners, could never be citizens. Since the men made up little more than half the population, this system cannot be described as fully democratic. 

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Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2010
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