SummaryThe Origins of Democracy is an analysis of Greek political developments from ca. 1150, through the Dark Age and the Archaic Age, leading up to the Athenian radical democracy after the reforms of Ephialtes in 462/1. Democracy is held to be a break with other political constitutions of antiquity for its inclusion of the citizen body into the polity. The citizens equalled the polis. This is often presented in opposition to the political developments in other city-state societies, such as the Mesopotamian city-states. The Greeks governed themselves, whereas other peoples were ruled by kings. The Greeks were free, whereas other peoples were slaves. The city-state, however, was no Greek invention. Societies where the king ruled together with citizen assemblies and councils are attested from the earliest sources to political history. Evidence from Sumer in the mid 3rd millennium and from the Levant in the 13th to the 8th centuries suggests that popular participation in the government of the city-state was much older than Greek democracy. The king was no autocratic figure, but had to answer to a popular assembly. Was democracy a Greek invention? How did it develop, and how did it work? In a comparative analysis of the polis and city-states of the Near East, it becomes clear that there are several similarities between the Greek democratic polis and city-states of the Near East. How can this be explained? This thesis uses methods from anthropology and discourse-analysis to compare structures of power in city-state communities. The evolution of political power in Mesopotamia and Greece seems to have been quite similar; the fundamental political organisation was the citizen assembly. Political decisions were made through deliberation in common, in designated open places outside the city, in the city-gates, or before the gates of the palace. The circle of citizens formed the community, and only through this community could leaders attain a prominent position. Through personal performance in the assembly and in battle, the Sumerian king and the Homeric hero maintained their prominent place. Leadership was granted by the assembly, and leaders were in a familial relation to the gods. These structural similarities form the basis for a political structure where the community wields power. The central role of assemblies and councils ensured popular participation in politics. City-states were ruled by a king, an assembly and a council. This tri-partite division is found throughout history in several societies. Athenian democracy, on the other hand, had three principles which combined distinguish it from other city-states: Magistrates were subject to official scrutiny at the end of their term of office. Officials were appointed by lot, and could not tend the same magistracy twice. All political issues were referred to common deliberation in the assembly. Combined, these measures ensured that the people remained in power, and prevented an elite to attain power behind the scenes. These principles were introduced through constitutional reforms in the 6th and 5th century, by Kleisthenes and Ephialtes. These elements do have parallels, however, from societies in the Near East. These elements are in general much older than the Athenian reforms. It may therefore be that Athenian democracy is part of a more general political development, and not a unique historical phenomenon.Through archaeological and philological analyses, the thesis aims at explaining Athenian democracy as a part of a larger political environment. The Greeks interacted with Near Eastern peoples throughout their known history, and were in contact with more advanced urban societies in the Levant in the 10th and 9th century, when Greece itself had no urban centres. The Greeks adopted the alphabet from the Phoenicians in the 8th century, and several Near Eastern elements are attested in Greek culture. Perhaps Greek political ideas were also shaped by their interaction with peoples of the Near East? The origins of democracy must be sought in the Near East, as the result of political developments related to the initial rise of the city-state in Sumer. The thesis aims at validating this claim, through an extensive comparative analysis of political and cultural phenomena, making a history of Greek democracy a part of the development of cultures in the wider cultural and political environment in the Mediterranean and the Near East.