Roman and Athenian Empires, Who Defeated Them?

Athenian Empire, Athenian

Roman and Athenian empires have held a special place in history and have influenced many future cultures. So, let’s take a voyage back in time to the early moments of Democracy to better understand who defeated these once glorious empires.

This article is dedicated to discussing how Athenian moral reforms set forth a golden age, only to be brought down by an emerging class of Athenian rhetoricians.

Who are Rhetoricians?

In short, we describe rhetoricians as people who deliberately ignore or misinterpret broad scientific evidence by removing context to pursue and promote self-interests. Over the long-term, these tactics are not repeatable and the consequences may become irreversible. In a free society, dishonest information accumulates to a tipping point that destabilizes the social and economic pillars of trust and integrity towards collapse.

Ancient Philosopher’s Description of Rhetoricians

Socrates considered “orators (rhetoricians) and tyrants,” as two who belong within the same category.

Aristotle best described rhetoricians as “a counterpart of both logic and politics,” and “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”

Plato explained that morality or “Ethics” is not inherent in rhetoric and that Rhetoricians “who would teach anyone who came to him wanting to learn oratory, but without expertise in what’s just.”

Democracy in Athens

The Athenian democracy is often described as the most significant and well-documented example of first democracy.

An important figure in Athenian democracy is Solon (638 BC–  558 BC) known as an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. In his early years, many Greek city-states had been threatened by the emergence of tyrants, opportunistic noblemen who sought power on behalf of small groups of private interests. [1]

In his early poems, Solon portrayed Athens as being menaced from uncontrolled greed and the arrogance of its citizens. The majority of Athenian’s had become slaves to the rich and the feuding of the aristocracy had stalled economic growth and fuelled a cultural decline.

Aristotle, in the Accounts of the Constitution of the Athenians, dictated that debtors unable to repay creditors would be required to surrender lands and give one sixth of produce to their creditors. Should the debt be deemed to exceed the “perceived” value of debtor’s total assets, the debtor as well and his family would become the creditor’s slaves. [2]

In 594 B.C., Solon was chosen as a temporary archon (ruler) to change the tides and to resolve Athens economic decline. It is during this time that historians believe the first steps to democratic rule were taken, as Solon would permit all Athenian citizens to participate in the assembly, regardless of class.

The Athenian Assembly

In Athen’s direct democracy, citizens did not nominate representatives to vote on legislation and executive bills on their behalf (as in the United States), but instead voted as individuals at the assembly. However, “all citizens” were still by no means inclusive of “all” (woman were excluded, for example).

In a move to appease the ruling class, despite granting common voting rights to Athenian men in the assembly, Solon also set up a rival council of 400 men called the Boule who retained power to set the legislative agenda for the main assembly and to protect the property rights qualifications of the few.

Those in the lowest class could not join this group. Furthermore, although, under these new reforms, the position of ruler “was opened” to others, it would also be limited to those who met certain property qualification requirements.

Moral Reforms

Despite these contradictions, Solon effectively re-vitalized an Athenian economy, which overly favored lenders with moral reforms. He ordered widespread debt relief, cancelled all outstanding debts and freed all Athenian people who were victims of serfdom. These actions would eventually drive the Athenian people to then unseen economic and cultural growth before declining again as the old ways returned in later years.

Solon’s reforms were later known as the Seisachtheia (shaking off of burdens). Furthermore, accounts suggest these new laws would prohibit the use of personal freedom as collateral in all future debts. [3]

Emergence of Cleisthenes

A better democracy emerged when Cleisthenes, a noble Athenian of the Alcmaeonid family, further reformed the constitution of ancient Athens in 507 BC. In a swift move, he increased the power of the Athenian citizens’ assembly and redistributed the power of the nobility over Athenian politics. He did so by changing the political organization and power structures, going from the four traditional tribes under Solon, which were based on family relations, to ten tribes divided according to their area of residence. [4]

Cleisthenes Athenian democracy and a new set of laws were written with the intent to move the nation towards a structure in which no property right qualifications would influence the vote.

Fast forward to our modern democracy; while most western nations provide citizens equal rights to vote on representatives, we allow elected officials to take secret financial contributions from lobbyist groups in exchange for votes on legislation that favor the property qualifications of the few. Thus, the ability to vote with property right qualifications remains. [5]

Cleisthenes’ democracy has never been achieved.

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The Emergence of Themistocles

Themistocles (c. 524–459 BC) was an Athenian politician and a general. He was a new brand of non-aristocratic politicians who rose to distinction in the early years of Athen’s new democracy. As a politician, he had the backing of lower economic class Athenians, and generally was at odds with the Athenian nobility. [6] 

Soon after his election as an archon in 493 BC, the Athenian people found new fortune in nearby silver mines that would greatly subsidize Athen’s “golden age”.

With new financial means, Themistocles received support from the Athenian people to build a fleet of 200 triremes to defend the people from neighboring Greek invaders.

However, it was against the second Persian invasion of Greece that Themistocles led the Athenian navy to its greatest victory establishing Athens as a military power and regional leader. [7]

For this, Themistocles looked for recognition. Accounts suggest his rhetoric began to pursue and promote his short-term interests above concerns of the entire system. Various documents suggest that he would often accept additional bribes on the grounds of special considerations for his past achievements and state title. In the end, we suggest the Athenian lower and upper class, not only permitted it to “be,” but “all” would soon begin to emulate this behavior.

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Athenians Would Free Themselves, Only to Enslave Others

Following their new military successes, Athens would lead The Delian League, an association of Greek city-states founded in 478 BC. This league allowed military resources from over 150 to 173 member states to be shared. Subsequently, for much of the 5th Century, instead of freeing others and maintaining cohesion, Athenians rhetoricians democratically fed off an empire of subject states. [8]

Solon’s empowerment of local laboring classes would also be replaced by an extensive use of imported non-Greeks as chattel slaves. 

During this time, there would also be rare limits on the power exercised by the assembly. These democratic rulers acted with dangerous brutality, as in the decision to execute the entire male population of Melos and sell off its women and children for refusing to become subjects of Athens.

Those who opposed or tested the power structures would be ostracized. Ostracism was an extraordinary practice that contrasted with Athenian law at the time: there was no charge, and the individual expelled could present no defense. It was simply a command from the Athenian people by secret vote to banish a person for a ten-year period.

A great example of the emergence of rhetoricians at the time, would be from ancient authors who mostly from elite backgrounds, began to redefine the meaning of democracy so that “demos” in democracy meant not the whole people, but the people who were not the elite. Consequently, the elites were not holding themselves accountable and considered themselves above the democratic structure.

Based on this outlook, groups of oligarchs would frequently battle and emerge knowing that they could ignored the democratic process for personal gains.

The Execution of Socrates

In an attempt to counter the rising disinformation tactics by these influential people, he named “rhetoricians,” Socrates developed an alternative method of teaching, known as the Socratic Method. This technique was designed to help restore reasoned arguments, establish context and improve problem-solving abilities.

Its structure is now the supporting pillar of our current “scientific method,” but for his efforts, in 399 BC, Socrates was put on trial and executed for “corrupting the young and believing in strange gods.” His death gave Europe one of the first intellectual martyrs.

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The “Socratic Method” is Today Known as the Scientific Method

The dialectical “Socratic” method was designed for discourse between two or more people that held different points of view on a given subject. Its purpose was to establish the truth guided by reasoned arguments.

Socrates understood the quality and honesty of our broad dialogue ultimately dictates the cohesiveness of society. Our ability to explore the reasoning used in opposing views is highly correlated to our ability to solve critical problems that concern or threaten the sustainability of the entire system.

The Socratic Method was described as: searching for general, commonly held truths that shape opinion and scrutinize them to determine their consistency with opposing beliefs to balance what is most important. It was a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical observations and to seek new ideas. [9]

The Fall of Athens

It was only around 60 years after Socrates was executed, for seeking truth guided by reasoned arguments, Macedonia conquered Athens in 338 BC, in the battle of Chaeronea, and dissolve the Athenian government in 322 BC. Greece was then absorbed into the Roman Republic in 146 BC as part of the Achaea Province, concluding 200 years of Macedonian supremacy. [10]

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The Fall of The Roman Empire

By 100 AD, Rome itself adopted rhetoric as an important way of public life. This movement was led by Cicero (106-43 BC), who was one of its most famous ancient orators. Published around the same time, “Rhetorica ad Herennium”, which is the oldest surviving Latin book on rhetoric, is still used today as a reference textbook on the structure and usage of rhetoric and influence in Law.

On August 24, 410, nearly 300 years after rhetoricians achieved popular acceptance, Rome was sacked for the first time in over 800 years by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I.

We conclude the fall of these two great empires were likely the results of disinformation tactics from those who exercised their property right qualifications within these empires’ many spheres of influence. We believe, that in the end — it was an accumulation of poor conversations and reflections that lacked empathy for the entire system that weakened and ultimately destroyed these once glorious political and cultural structures.

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Rhetoricians: Belong to the Theater, Improvisation & Comedy Houses

Rhetoric is oratory art that requires neither logic nor proof and is a destructive method to argue one’s position for all matters, especially those that concern the entire system. It belongs to the theater, improvisation and comedy houses, not in the leadership nor decision-making process.

Why are comedians so apt to see through the dishonest rhetoric from influencers? Because, they better understand how, to pretend to have character and pretend to solve problems. It’s an inherent part of their craft. [11]

Leonardo Decaprio, Politicians, Climate Change, Rhetoric, Rhetoricians

[3] – /citenote7


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    By: DorfmanAdam

    Curiosity is something that drives us to find answers along our unique life paths. For me, Adam B. Dorfman, that path began with an MBA at the University of Toronto and with several years in the capital markets before he began to explore emerging sciences. Adam then founded the website Concept Evolution to explore these new scientific concepts, with a healthy skepticism, and has since added an exceptional team of writers, with strong scientific backgrounds, to help him. The team at Concept Evolution is extremely passionate to follow these emerging studies, while exploring the philosophy of science, as these immature sciences, become mature scientific fields.

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  • Myco Child

    Excellent article. I also love the use of Jon Stewart.

    • Thanks Myco. Indeed Jon Stewart is great at spotting rhetoric.—stuart-varney-vs–pope-francis ..
      The Amazing Raise – Stuart Varney vs. Pope Francis is also a good one

      • Myco Child

        I had thought my earlier reply posted but it obviously did not, so I will attempt again.

        I am currently in a debate concerning an article on Christian Today with the author and quoted three paragraphs from your article. I cited my source with a link as that proper debate requires this and plagerism is something only politicians do. I felt using these three points were helpful additions concerning the obvious debate tactics of this person. I would love your opinion if you have the time.

        Peace and Love,


        • The anti-cannabis dialogue is very interesting. It’s very similar to the “virgin” pledge and shame tactics are often used to create fear and submission. In the same as shame tactics have create a global markets for “virgins” to be sold in sex slavery, anti-cannabis legislation and rhetoric has created an even bigger market for its use and elevate federal costs associated with enforcement.

          People on both sides seem to hold extreme views that are unhealthy for many people caught in the middle. None of us will never find true freedom until all are allowed to take the narrow path, which is not a limitless path, free from interference and association to universals; towards balance, individuality and personal growth.

          What is interesting in the anti-cannabis camp is that they “think” that regular folks do not have free will to “think” for themselves.

          This is because they themselves can no longer “think” for themselves as their own religious obligations require them to give away their free will to “gods will.” From the get-go they are limited to possible outcomes. I may write about this subject because I think you have a point in that “the shame” tactic is creating too many unnecessary consequences and interferences.

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  • The Daily Show is my favorite! I watch it every day.

    • Thanks for the note, Krystal. Indeed, he does a great job a seeing through rhetoricians

  • Ganz Feld

    I think a big problem is critical thinking is not being taught in schools anymore. Rhetoric itself is neutral. Any good leader will have speaking skills. How is one supposed to become a leader without being able to persuade people into supporting his or her position? Anyone can learn these skills. There are some clubs people can join, such as the Toastmasters, that allow members to practice speaking skills in a supportive environment.

    I think the problem is Americans are no longer being taught critical thinking or logic. Education is focused on test-taking skills which have no real-world application. We should be teaching students to spot logical fallacies. If the schools aren’t teaching these skills that is our job as parents.

    • indeed, I agree. Thanks for the note Ganz … indeed, critical thinking open to new realities is really important to solving problems and finding the right balance