The notions of citizenship, liberty, and equality of political rights, as well as popular sovereignty, were closely interrelated. The most essential feature of citizenship was one’s origin and heritage: Pericles was the ‘son of Xanthippus from the deme of Cholargus’. From 451 BCE, one had to be born of an Athenian mother and father in order to become a citizen. Defined by his belonging, the citizen (polites) was opposed to the idiotes, or non-citizen—a designation that quickly took on a pejorative meaning (from the notion of the isolated individual with no belonging came the idea of the ‘idiot’). Citizenship as a function thus derived from the notion of citizenship a status which was the exclusive prerogative of birth. To be a citizen meant, in the fullest sense of the word, to belong to a homeland – that is, to a homeland and a past.
- Excerpt from: The Problem of Democracy, by Alain de Benoist