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In the mid-1700s (where this course begins) most societies were dominated

by absolute rulers.
This began to change when political revolutions challenged the authority of

absolute monarchs and democracy began to spread.

Big idea: The idea of democracy developed over time and had many different

The Greeks introduced the idea of a direct democracy.
Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle taught against tyranny and

absolute monarchy.
The Romans gave the world the idea of a republic.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam spread democratic ideas of individual worth

and duty to the community.

The Renaissance and the Reformation emphasized these same ideas and led

people to challenge the authority of the time.

Assignment: Work your way through this Pp to learn more about the roots of

democracy and its various influencescomplete the guided Qs as you go.


Ancient Greece claims the distinction of developing the first democracy in a country. Athens was
the largest and most powerful city-state in Greece and it was here that democracy got its start.
Athenians did not wish to be ruled by authoritarian leaders. Instead, they developed a system of
government known as a direct democracy in which laws were voted on and proposed directly by
all citizens. Because of the relatively small size of Athenian society, it was possible to include all
citizens in government decision-making. The famous Athenian leader, Pericles expressed his pride
in Athenian democracy when he said our constitution is called a democracy because power is in
the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. It must be noted, however, that Athenian
democracy remained very limitedonly adult male residents of Athens were considered citizens
and, therefore, eligible to participate.
The ancient Greeks were also the first to develop three branches of governmenta legislative
branch to pass laws, an executive branch to carry out the laws, and a judicial branch to settle
disputes about the laws. The purpose of dividing power in this way helped to guarantee that
Athens would never succumb (give in) to an absolute monarchy. Many modern democracies
divide power in much the same way today. Athenians accused of a crime also had the right to a
trial by jury which is also a fundamental part of most democratic systems today.
Finally, Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle argued against tyranny


Rome added to Greeces idea of democracy by introducing the idea
of a republic. Whereas in a direct democracy all citizens participate
in decision-making, in a republic citizens elect leaders to make
governmental decisions for them. This form of government is also
called an indirect democracy. A republic made more sense for
Rome because it had a much larger population than ancient
Greece. Perhaps Romes greatest and most lasting legacy was its
written set of laws and the idea that laws should be applied
equally and fairly to all citizens. Some important principles of
Roman law were:
A person was considered innocent until proven guilty.
The burden of proof rested with the accuser rather than with the


Any law that seemed unreasonable or unfair could be set aside.


The ideas of Judaism, Christianity and Islam also helped shape democracy. Judaism is a monotheistic religion
(one god) that began with the Hebrews dating back several thousand years. Jews contributed to our idea of
democracy by teaching the worth of the individualthat is, the idea that every person counts and that our
decisions affect others. Judaism taught that the worth of the individual was based on our morals and
knowing right from wrong. Jews believed that people are capable of living to a high moral standard and
doing what is right. Like the Romans the Jews had a written set of laws (Ten Commandments) that applied to
everyone equally. A key difference, however, was that Roman laws focused on politics while Jewish laws
dealt with morality and ethics (good v. evil). As part of these moral laws the Jews believed that it is the
responsibility of every person to oppose injustice (wrongdoing) and that the community should assist (help)
the unfortunate.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion that was based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. His followers
formed a religion based on his beliefs called Christianity. His beliefs and teachings focused on morality
(knowing and doing what is right not wrong) and on the ideas of love for all and equality for all. The idea of
equality became a central belief of democracy. Jesus was seen as a threat to the Roman government and
was executed but his ideas spread and had a great influence on democracy.
Islam, the youngest of the three monotheistic religions, began in 600 AD based on the teachings of the
prophet Muhammad. Islam emphasized the dignity (worth) of all human beings and the brotherhood of all
people. Islam emphasized the bond of community and that Muslims should offer charity to those in need.
Another important contribution to democracy was the idea that rulers must obey the same laws as those
they ruled.


The Roman Republic eventually failed and turned into an empire

ruled by a dictator.
When the Roman Empire finally collapsed a period called the

Middle Ages began in Europe.

During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church became the

most powerful institution in Europe.

The Church was strongly authoritarianthe Pope served much

like a dictator.
The Church expected unquestioned loyalty and obedience.
This was a dark period in European history.


Historians mark the end of the Middle Ages with the beginning

of the Renaissance period.

The Renaissance was a cultural reawakening in Europe.
This was the time of artists such as De Vinci and Shakespeare.
During the Renaissance there was a renewed emphasis on
Individualism is the belief that the needs of each person are
equally/more important than the needs of the whole society or
Renaissance thinkers began to explore ideas about power and
the role of government in the lives of ordinary people.
These ideas posed a direct threat to the Catholic Church who
expected unquestioned obedience.


Many Renaissance thinkers believed the Church had become

Their claims led to a religious reform movement known as the
The Reformation challenged the Catholic Church and resulted in
the formation of a second type of Christian religion
By challenging the authority of the Church and the Pope it

contributed to the growth democracy.

But, democracy still did not take root in Europe.

The turmoil of the Reformation caused civil wars and conflicts

across Europe.

In many countries, powerful leaders seized control and restored


You should now have a clear understanding of the following:
In the mid-1700s most societies were dominated by absolute
rulers. This began to change when political revolutions
challenged the authority of absolute monarchs (and later the
Catholic Church) and began to usher in a new era of democracy
and governments of the people. It is important to understand,
however, that democracy developed gradually over hundreds of
years and was influenced by the Greeks and Romans, the ideas
of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and as a result of
Renaissance and the Reformation.


During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was the most powerful institution in Europe. It fulfilled the need for
leadership left by the collapse of the Roman Empire and, while short-lived kingdoms rose and fell, the church was one
of the few sources of leadership and stability that people could rely upon. The Pope helped to feed the people of Rome
and paid to maintain roads and other public works. In exchange, the Church expected unquestionable obedience to its
authority. The Church had the power to tax and had its own code of law and its own courts. It did not allow anyone to
question the basic principles of the Christian religion and those who preached beliefs not approved by the church were
labeled heretics (unbelievers who deserved eternal damnation) and could be sentenced to death. Galileo Galileithe
famous astronomer and engineerwas found guilt of heresy for teaching that the sunand not the earthwas at the
center of our universe. He was forced to recant (deny his statements) and he spent the rest of his life under house

The Roman Catholic Church came influence all aspects of lifereligious, social, and political. In the arts, little was
created that did not portray religious imagery. In education, schools were carried out at monasteries and in churches
and priests took on the role of professor. Those who did receive an education were mainly nobles and church leaders.
By the year 1200 the Church controlled 1/3 of all the land in Europe and its power stretched across kingdoms.


Europe had suffered during the Middle Ages from war and plague. The Black plague killed nearly 1/3 of the population of Europe
and caused widespread panic and fear. Peoples faith in God was shaken and by the end of the Middle ages people had begun to
question the ability of the church to protect them.
In the early 1300s a movementknown as the Renaissancebegan in Italy. The Renaissance changed how Europeans viewed
themselves and their world. Those who survived the plagues and wars of the Middle Ages wanted to celebrate life and enjoy
worldly pleasuresthe ideals of the Renaissance reflected these desires. The Renaissance era was marked by the growth of
Humanism and the weakening of Church power. The Humanist movement was secular (not religious) which threatened the power
of the Church. Humanists viewed life not only as preparation for the afterlife but as a joy in itself. They studied literature,
philosophy, music, theatre, and historysubjects that we know refer to as the humanities because they deal with human nature.
Humanists thought people could enjoy life without offending God and so they indulged in good music, fine food, and expensive
Renaissance ideas impressed scholars, artists, merchants, and students who visited Italy. These visitors brought their ideas home
with them and in such a way Renaissance ideas spread throughout Europe. A remarkable new processprintingalso helped
spread Renaissance ideas. Created in Germany by Johann Gutenberg, the printing press made it possible to produce books quickly

& cheaply. As a result people read more and literacy increased (the ability to read and write).


Renaissance artists produced some of the worlds greatest masterpieces. The art of the Middle Ages stressed religion
and the world beyond everyday life. Renaissance art depicted religious and non-religious subjects, depicted realistic
and life-like human figures, and everyday life. Some notable Renaissance artists were Michelangelo, Rafael, and
Leonardo de Vinci. De Vinci was known as the true Renaissance man because he was educated, artistic, athletic, witty and
charming. He strove to master every area of studyhe was an architect, engineer, painter, sculptor, and scientist. Hes been
credited with developing the first conceptual models of a helicopter and tank (these things would not be invented until the 1900s)
and some considered him to be perhaps the greatest painter of all time. His most famous workthe Mona Lisais an excellent
example of Renaissance art because of its secular and life-like qualities. Shakespearean English playwrightstands out as the

leading literary figure of the time because of his insight into human nature and the way he was able to portray personality and
human emotions. Showing such a deep understanding of people was a hallmark of humanist ideology with its emphasis on
master painter,
sculptor and poet
was hired by the
Catholic Church to
paint the Sistine
Chapel in Rome. He
resented the
commission to paint
it because he
thought that it only
served the Popes
desire of grandeur

It took da Vinci 10 years

to paint the Mona Lisa
and its been said that
he spent years just on
the eyes. Some
speculate that the
subject of the painting is
a self-portrait of da Vinci
in drag, or the artists
mother, or perhaps just
someones wife that he
was hired to paint.



Some humanists argued that the Catholic Church had had become corrupt and lost sight of its spiritual purpose. They
argued that Church leaders were abusing their power and growing wealthy through the use of church funds. The Pope
and some priests openly took wives or mistresses, priests and monks drank excessively and gambled, and because
many of them were uneducated they were often unable to perform their duties properly. The sale of indulgences. What
really struck a chord for many was the sale of indulgences which were pardons from punishment for sinsessentially
the church was selling forgiveness to fund lavish construction projects and finance wars. Humanists saw this as an
abuse of church power and were outraged. One critic was the German monk Martin Luther. Luther believed that people
could win salvation only by faith in God, not through good works or through the purchase of indulgences. He believed
that all church teachings should be based on the Bible and further, that the Church and the Pope were false authorities
and that people did not need a priest to interpret the Bible for them. He is well known for coining the 95 thesis in
which he outlined his criticisms of certain Church practices he viewed as corrupt. He took of advantage of the printing
press to spread his views and ultimately, the religious reform movement he began would lead a split in the Catholic

Church and the birth of a new branch of Christianity known as Protestantism.




I am Lord thy God Thou shalt have no other gods before me.


Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image


Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain


Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.


Honor thy father and thy mother


Thou shalt not kill.


Thou shalt not commit adultery.


Thou shalt not steal.


Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.


Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbors.