According to known history records, the seeds of democracy were sown in Ancient Greece. The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words that mean people (δῆμος - demos) and rule (κράτος- kratos). To be exact - "demos" meant free people, "full" citizens, not all the population (λαος) of the city, anyway the political system that could be called the world's first democracy was in Athens. Whereas throughout the ancient world, kings, tribal or spiritual leaders, warlords and other influential people decided almost everything, the Athenians came to the conclusion that the citizens should play an active role in the government of their country and rule it directly or through elected representatives. This was something new, an idea unheard of before: people can change their government through a peaceful transfer of power, not through violent uprising or revolution. Athenians have achieved the key part of democracy - the people had a voice. The breakthrough reforms in the formation of democracy were initiated by Solon, and then Cleisthenes in VI B.C. The laws adopted as a result of their reforms can be considered the prototypes of modern constitutions.
Cleisthenes called these reforms isonomia ("equality vis à vis law", iso-=equality; nomos=law), instead of demokratia.
There was one kind of election that was a peculiarity of ancient Greek democracy at the beginning of its birth. It was a sort of reverse election, what one might be tempted to call a deselection, except that the persons so affected might not actually be holding any office at the time, whether elective or allotted. The procedure was known at Athens in the fifth century BCE as "ostracism" - a word that has made its way into modern languages to refer to a particular form of social disfavour, whereby the person ostracised cast out of the favoured social circle.
The term ostracism was derived from ostracon (ὄστρακον) - a piece of pottery, a potsherd. Ostracon was the voting token used in an ancient Athenian ostracism were potsherds bearing the name of the candidate whom the voter wished to see ostracised.
Every year at a particular juncture in the civil calendar the members of the Athenian Boule is better known as the Council of 500 (under the reforms of Cleisthenes enacted in 508/507 BC, the Boule was expanded to 500 men, made up of 50 men from each of the ten tribes) were asked whether they wanted to hold an ostracism (ostracophoria) that year. If a majority raised their right hands in assent, the relevant officials took steps (vote of the Assembly (Ecclesia)) to see that it would be held some months later. On the appointed day citizens were invited to attend in the Agora or civic centre of Athens, bearing a potsherd on which their candidate's name had been scratched or painted. Provided a quorum of 6,000 such ostraca were handed in and counted, the ostracism (ostracophoria) was valid, and the candidate with the most potsherds to, or rather against, his name "won". The citizen that was condemned had a deadline of 10 days to arrange their personal affairs. During the first yeas the exile was lasting 10 years but later 5 years.
Actually, the ostracism was a voting procedure through which was determined if a dangerous (for the city) individual was about be led to a mandatory exile or not. First appeared in Ancient Athens around 6th century B.C. that institution of the Athenian Democracy later was used by more cities with democratic polities.The procedure of the ostracism was as follows: they used to close off the Agora in order to create an enclosure which was divided in 10 pieces with the same entrance. According to their tribe the people were entering those pieces and were leaving a pottery (ostracon) with the name of individual they wanted to ostracize on it.
Unlike under modern voting procedures, the Athenians did not have to adhere to a strict format for the inscribing of ostacon. Many extant ostraca show that it was possible to write expletives, short epigrams or cryptic injunctions beside the name of the candidate without invalidating the vote. For example: Kallixenes, son of Aristonimos, "the traitor"; Archen, "lover of foreigners"; Agasias, "the donkey"; Megacles, "the adulterer" (more in page 2 "Interesting facts").
The ostracism was first used as a mean to protect democracy. Gradually this institution lost its meaning because it was used by a lot of parties as a mean of obliteration of their rivals. Ostracism was not in use throughout the whole period of Athenian democracy (circa 506–322 BC), but only occurred in the fifth century BC. The standard account, found in Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians 22.3, attributes the establishment to Cleisthenes, a pivotal reformer in the creation of the democracy. In that case, ostracism would have been in place from around 506 BC. The first victim of the practice, however, was not expelled until 487 BC—nearly 20 years later. Over the course of the next 60 years some 12 or more individuals followed him. The list may not be complete, but there is good reason to believe the Athenians did not feel the need to eject someone in this way every year. The list of known ostracisms runs as follows:
487 Hipparchos son of Charmos, a relative of the tyrant Peisistratos
486 Megacles son of Hippocrates; Cleisthenes' nephew (possibly ostracised twice)
485 Kallixenos (Callixenus) son of Aristonymos; nephew of Cleisthenes
484 Xanthippus son of Ariphron; Pericles' father
482 Aristides son of Lysimachus
471 Themistocles son of Neocles
461 Cimon son of Miltiades
460 Alcibiades son of Kleinias (possibly ostracised twice)
457 Menon son of Meneclides
442 Thucydides son of Melesias
440s Callias son of Didymos
440s Damon son of Damonides
416 Hyperbolus son of Antiphane
(You can read more about ostracized persons and some interesting facts in page 2)
Around 12,000 political ostraka have been excavated in the Athenian agora and in the Kerameikos. The second victim, Cleisthenes' nephew Megacles, is named by 4647 of these, but for a second undated ostracism not listed above. The known ostracisms seem to fall into three distinct phases: the 480s BC, mid-century 461–443 BC and finally the years 417–415: this matches fairly well with the clustering of known expulsions.
The last known ostracism was that of Hyperbolus in circa 417 BC. There is no sign of its use after the Peloponnesian War, when democracy was restored after the oligarchic coup of the Thirty had collapsed in 403 BC. However, while ostracism was not an active feature of the fourth-century version of democracy, it remained; the question was put to the assembly each year, but they did not wish to hold one.
Other cities are known to have set up forms of ostracism on the Athenian model, namely Megara, Miletos, Argos and Syracuse, Sicily. In the last of these it was referred to as petalismos, because the names were written on olive leaves. Little is known about these institutions. Furthermore, pottery shards identified as ostraka have been found in Chersonesos Taurica, leading historians to the conclusion that a similar institution existed there as well, in spite of the silence of the ancient records on that count.
Many historical data indicate that the main reason for the reforms of Cleisthenes and the emergence of the institution of ostracism is the fear of a return to the tyranny regime.
The reforms of Cleisthenes became one of the key stages in the development of Ancient Athens. The political influence of the aristocratic clans-phratries was significantly reduced. Democracy was formed in the country, the foundation of which was laid by Solon in 590s BC. e. Demos began to actively participate in political life, and the reforms themselves contributed to the emergence of politicians from the people.
A link to National Geographic website page "Ostracism in Ancient Greece".
Ostrakism presupposed the performance of a certain ritual. As it was said above, we know that ostracism was a two-stage procedure, of which the first act activated the second.
The fisrt stage. The Council of Five Hundred (Boule) prepared annually a probouleam (προβούλευμα) on this topic. The question of the need for ostracophoria in the current year was brought up for a preliminary vote or the epichyrotony (ἐπιχειροτονίαν) of the Assembly (Ecclesia) during the sixth pritania (December-January). The decision was taken by a simple majority of votes.
The second stage. If the vote was positive, an ostracophoria was held a few months later; if negative, the question was asked again next year.
So the procedure of ostracism involved several requirements. Some of its features were purpose-fully self-limiting. They included: temporal restrictions, (including an annual call for ostracism, and a structured two-stage procedure), a high participation quorum, and an unlimited choice of candidates.
MyOstracon.com tries to keep the basic rules based on historical facts, as far as it was advisable when voting on the Internet under modern realities.