THE LAW OF OSTRACISM
 AFTER Cleisthenes had set Athens free from the rule of Hippias, he
began to reform the laws and to make Athens a more
democratic State than she had yet been.
Until now the Athenians had been divided into four tribes;
Cleisthenes split up the four tribes into ten. Each of the
ten tribes he then arranged in ten parishes or "demes."
In each tribe there were demes made up of the Plain, the
Shore, and the Hill. As these demes had to fight together
in time of war, the three different parties grew to be
friends instead of enemies. And that was why Cleisthenes
had arranged the tribes in this way, instead of making one
tribe consist of ten demes of Hill men and another of ten
demes of Plain or Coast men.
Members from the new tribes were sent to the assembly of the
people, and to the assembly Cleisthenes gave new powers. It
could choose its own rulers, and punish those who ruled
unjustly. It could impose taxes, make war, and settle terms
But of all the laws which Cleisthenes made, the one which
will interest you most is the one that was called the law of
Ostracism. The word ostracism comes from the Greek
ostrakon, a shell.
In Athens there were often two leaders opposed to one
another, but each as powerful as the other.
Cleisthenes thought that it would be a good plan to be able
to get rid of one of these leaders for a time and so save
the city from civil war, which often threatened to overtake
 it. So he said that when it was necessary to banish one of
these leaders, the citizens should meet together, each being
given an oyster-shell on which to write the name of the man
of whom he disapproved.
If six thousand votes were given against one leader he was
said to be ostracised, and was compelled to leave the city
within ten days for five or perhaps even for ten years. His
exile was not a disgrace, it was enforced only for the good
of the State. When the five or ten years had passed, the
leader returned to Athens to hold as high a position as he
had held before and to take possession of his property.
The reforms of Cleisthenes displeased the nobles who wished
Athens to be an oligarchy, and they were angry that so much
power had been given to the assembly of the people. They
said the city would soon be ruined, for how could the people
who were unaccustomed to so much power use it well and
wisely. But the fears of the nobles were groundless, for
from this time Athens grew more prosperous as well as more
powerful. She soon had a stronger army, a better fleet,
and, as you shall hear, was victorious over her enemies both
by land and by sea.
Great writers and sculptors too added to the glory of Athens
and made her the most famous city of Greece.