Demokratia is my most thematic game since the Nova Suecia Series, where
virtually every detail is rooted in history. The historical context is
Classical Athens, starting at
480 BC after the Persian sack and ending with the
Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC.
The former was the starting point of the Golden Age of Athens, when Athens emerged as the leading city
state in Greece, and the latter was the definite ending point, as the Athenian loss in the battle paved
the way for the Macedonian hegemony under Alexander the Great (unless, of course, the players prevent this
in the game).
The Phylai (Tribes)
The Athenian rise to power started with the establishment of democracy in 510 BC. It was in this year that
the unpopular tyrantHippias was overthrown and the
radical politican Cleisthenes took
charge. He organized the Athenian people into ten phylai (tribes), each of which was named after the
Eponymous (Legendary) Heroes and
divided into three trittyes (one from the coast; one from the city and one from the inland). In the game,
the tribes have been paired into the five playing colors:
The principal assembly of Athens was the
It was the popular assembly, open to all male citizens born by Athenian parents regardless of class
and responsible for declaring war, military strategy and electing the strategoi and other officials.
The Ekklesia is represented in the game by the Ekklesa Chart
with its 5 colors with 10 power levels each.
However, the daily affairs of the city was run by the
It was made up of 50 men from each phyle chosen by lot and led by the prytany - 50 men chosen from among the
500 and represented in the game by the Boule Chart with its 5 colors with 10 influence seats each. The
more seats a player has of a color, the more influence does he or she has over that phyle.
It is true that the balance between the phylai and the rotation of the Boule members limited the risk of
domination of factions of any kind but richer citizens did serve out of proportion to poorer citizens. Perhaps
the real demagogues of Athens could have exerted influence over them, just like in the game?
The City Building
The Athenian support to the Ionian Greeks
of Asia Minor in 499 BC provoked the leading empire of the
time, Persia. The Persians
were first defeated at the Battle of Marathon
in 490 BC and sacked Athens. They were eventually defeated by Themistocles at the naval
Battle of Salamis, after
which the Athenians could return and rebuild their city.
The man behind many of the buildings was Pericles,
who among many other projects initiated the construction of the
Parthenon at Acropolis in 447 BC. The center of
Athens, as of all other city states, was the Agora. The
passed through the Agora on its way to Acropolis and it was around this square that the official
buildings of Athens were located and that the political life took place.
All Monuments in the game existed in the Classical Athens. Even their symbolic images are made to
resemble their originals as recreated at
Ancient Athens 3D
(with the exception of Plato's Academy, which I couldn't find).
Plato's Academy was founded by
Socrates' apprentice Plato in 387 BC. There's no agreement on the curriculum of the Academy, although some
believe it resembled the one canvassed in The Republic.
In the game, this has been simplified into an extra Athens tile on the hand, helping the player to
build the perfect city.
The building of Parthenon
was initiated in 447 BC by Pericles and completed in 438 BC. It was dedicated to the patron of Athens,
Athena Polias, although it never hosted the cult of her. Instead, the Parthenon was used to store many
treasures of Athens. Nevertheless, the game uses it as a divine power to understand the will of the
people (and view the secret vote tiles).
The Stoa Basileios
or the Royal Stoa was the headquarters of the King Archon and of the Areios Pagos council (in charge of religious affairs and crime).
It was constructed as early as in the 5th century BC and although
it wasn't the grandest of the buildings around the Agora, this is where Socrates was charged with
impiety (and subsequently sentenced to death) and hence fit to use as a mean to remove Rhetors
from the game. This is also where voting for ostracism took place according to some historians.
The Theatre of Dionysus
was built on a site relating to the cult of Dionysus. The earliest wooden constructions from the early fifth
century BC were later replaced by stone. The theatre was the scene of the
Dionysia with competitions between
dramatists like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. The dramatists could also use the scenes
for political statements, which in the game has been translated into the ability to replace vote tiles.
The Long Walls were built
from the city of Athens to its port at Piraeus to provide a secure connection. The original walls were destroyed
by the Persians in 480 BC but rebuilt, destroyed again by the Spartans in 404 BC and rebuilt again a
decade later, this time with Persian help (!). Ruins of old buildings were sometimes used as building
material and the game takes this one step further by allowing the holder of The Long Walls to replace
and rebuild buildings in Athens.
The Rhetors or Orators in the game were selected among the most famous Athenian personalities.
They also belonged to the different tribes depicted on their tiles (with the exception of
Sophocles, whose tribe I couldn't find any information about).
Themistocles was a populist who was
elected archon in 493 BC and convinced the polis to increase the naval power. He fought both at the
Battle of Marathon and at the Battle of Salamis but was perceived as arrogant and was eventually
ostracized in 472 or 471 BC, after which he went into the service of the Persian King Artaxerxes I.
Pericles was a man of aristocratic origin
but joined the Democratic party and was the most influential statesman during the Golden Age of Athens. He
promoted art and initiated building projects. An anecdote says that he asked the people whether too much was spent
and upon their yes, he said that the buildings would be built not in the name of the people but in his name.
However, the Plague of 429 BC undermined his popularity and eventually took his life.
Sophocles was born in a wealthy family and
became the most-fêted playwright in the dramatic competitions of Athens, winning 24 of 30 competitions and never
judged lower than second place. He was also engaged in politics; in 443 or 442 BC, he became treasurer of
Athena, responsible for collecting tributes from subjected territories, and was later elected strategoi
(general), in which position he quelled a revolt at Samos and fought against Syracuse. He died at an age
of ninety, according to legends after having recited a long sentence from his Antigone without
taking a breath.
Socrates has been credited as the founder
of Western philosophy. He left nothing written but his dialogues has reached us through his apprentice
Plato. During 406, he participated in the Boule and in a famous vote for capital punishment of two
generals, he alone voted no, against the will of the people but "in accordance with the law". Socrates appears to have been a critic of
democracy and his trial may have been caused by political infighting. When sentenced to death in 399 BC
for corrupting the mind of the youth, he chose to accept his fate rather than escape and break his
Demosthenes was born in a wealthy family,
although rivals claimed that his mother was of Scythian origin. Starting his career as a logographer and
lawyer, he soon entered politics in 354 BC and devoted his oratory skills to opposing Macedonian
expansion and restoring Athenian supremacy. An attempt to form an alliance against the Macedonian King Philip II failed, as did
an uprising against his son Alexander the Great, and to avoid being arrested, Demosthenes took his life.
Ostracism was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which the people could expel any citizen from Athens for ten years. The purpose was to neutralize someone thought to be a threat to the state or a potential tyrant.
Just like in the game, only one man could be ostracized at the time provided that enough votes were cast. Also, an ostracized man kept his status and property and could return without stigma, just like they keep their citizens and participate in the distribution of new ones in the game.
The Peloponnesian War
The The Peloponnesian War
was fought between the Athenian Empire and the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Both sides committed atrocities,
leaving a devastated country and ending the Golden Age of Greece. Athens lost the war and was forced to
dismantle not only its protective
Long Walls but also the democracy
and accept a reactionary regime of Thirty Tyrants.
It could have become even worse - Corinth and Thebes wanted to destroy Athens and enslave all its citizens,
not unlike the "all player lose" scenario in the game.
The end game conditions
All the end game conditions are related to actual historical facts. The Democracy victory is
simply what happened: the Athenian democracy survived its many challenges with one or
more politicians (players) earning themselves names remembered even in our days. However, their
internal strives couldn't prevent the eventual fall of the Athenian democracy and the rise of the
The Oligarch victory also happened. It was the
Athenian Coup of 411 BC,
that took place during the Peloponnesian War. It was initiated by a group of aristocrats known as The
Four Hundred, who overthrew the democracy. In the game, this is simplified to happen when a phyle
reaches power 10. The real Oligarchy was short-lived, but perhaps the
players can change that?
The Tyrant victory took place after the Peloponnesian War, when the victorious Spartans installed the
Thirty Tyrants. Their
regime was brutal, killing 5% of the population, and ended after 13 months. Perhaps the players
last longer than that?
The happy ending requires that the players don't fight so much about the influence in the Boule
but rather focus on building Athens. If they succeed in placing all 49 Athens tiles (difficult but not
impossible), they deserve to share the victory and establish a Dominion over Greece themselves instead
of the Macedonians.
The less happy endings, where the Athenians abandon the city (if power falls to 0) or
where Athens is destroyed (due to the Peloponnesian War) is similar to what happened to Athens much
later, as the Slavs
invaded Greece and left Athens ruined and desolated for centuries to come.