Pnyx Athens

Download the all time classic political speech about democracy: “Pericles Epitaphios”

Perikleous Epitafios (greek)

Pericles Funeral Oration -Epitaphios-(EN)

The unique-Pnyx

Compared to the better-known surviving monuments of ancient Athens, such as the Parthenon, the Pnyx is relatively unspectacular. It is a small, rocky hill surrounded by parkland, with a large flat platform of eroded stone set into its side, surrounded by steps carved on its slope. It is nevertheless one of the most significant sites in the city, and indeed in the world. For the Pnyx was the meeting place of the world’s first ever democratic legislature, the Athenian ekklesia (assembly), and the flat stone platform is the bema, the “stepping stone” or speakers’ platform. As such, the Pnyx is the material embodiment of the principle of isēgoria (Greek: ισηγορία), “equal speech”, i.e. the equal right of every citizen to debate matters of policy. The other two principles of democracy were isonomia (Greek: ισονομία), equality under the law, and isopoliteia (Greek: ισοπολιτεία), equality of vote and equal opportunity to assume political office. The right of isēgoria was expressed by the presiding officer of the Pnyx assembly, who formally opened each debate with the open invitation “Tis agoreyein bouletai?” (Greek: “Τίς ἀγορεύειν βούλεται;“, “Who wishes to speak?”).

The Pnyx was used for popular assemblies in Athens as early as 507 BC, when the reforms of Cleisthenes transferred political power to the citizenry. It was then outside the city proper, but close enough to be convenient. It looks down on the ancient Agora, the commercial and social centre of the city.

At this site all the great political struggles of Athens of the “Golden Age” were fought out. Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades spoke here, within sight of the Parthenon, temple of Athena.


The ELDW 2009   e-Pnyx

E-Pnyx as European Pnyx. E-Pnyx as electronic Pnyx. Whatever your choice is, you are expected to feel free, take your turn and time and speak to the European citizens. We need to communicate explicitly. Express our feelings and thoughts about the current situation and the status of Local Democracy in a wider context. We in Greece tend to speak  about politics (local, regional, national and international) all the time.  Pnyx used to be the landmark of Democracy in classical Athens. E-pnyx has the ambition to bring us closer for discussing our common future, ambitions, frustrations, hopes and fears. A paneuropean “ekklesia of Dimos” needs to be found in basic terms. Council of Europe gives the direction. We as citizens regardless  our nationality must find our pace in the Land of mutual understanding and respect of the democratic tradition of a continent that bloodshed used to be a common place not in the far distant past. We, the citizens of Ierapetra expect from the Council of Europe but mostly from the citizens of the CoE member states  to give a thrust to ELDW celebrations. Democracy is not a panacea.

Paraphrasing Umberto Eco:

“(Local) Democracy does not mean that the minority is wrong. It means that while it respects the government of the majority, it expresses itself each time it believes the majority is wrong or believes that it (the majority) is performing acts against the laws, against morality and the very principles of (local) democracy, and it must do this always and with the utmost energy because this is the mandate it (the minority) has received from citizens. When the majority claims it is always right and the minority does not dare to react, (local) democracy is in danger”.

Words in parentheses are ours. With or without parentheses, the democratic tradition and practice either local/national/international has to be protected against those who wish to put it in brackets regardless their reasons and scope. Citizens rights, non-citizens rights must be aknowledged , respected and fortified. One of the “fatal” errors of Athenian democracy and probably elsewhere was that population in general apart from the natural born Athenian citizens have no rights (women, slaves,….. immigrants today around the world).

We must find viable ανδ  fair solutions not only focusing in human rights but also in citizen rights (politika dikaiwmata).

If only we understand that an affluent society has to be an open society for the needs of its people (in the inner or outer circle) then we will be able to draw a path for a safe future.

Local Democracy as an institution lies at the heart of the Democracy. 1st level democratic participation is the cradle of the young citizens and those that are going to govern and decide about the local issues of tomorrow. Financial viability is of leading priority in concern to handle local issues and create the infrastructure of today and tommorow. Citizens are above all the part and parcel of Local Democracy. Active, human, energetic, assertive and trustful citizens must seek a better present and future for them and the generations to come.

It would be of high essence to have your thoughts in Local Democracy matters.

Manolis Tzouvelekas


ELDW 2009

Ierapetra – CoE Pilot- City


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: