Χρώμεθα γὰρ πολιτείᾳ οὐ ζηλούσῃ τοὺς τῶν πέλας νόμους, παράδειγμα δὲ μᾶλλον αὐτοὶ ὄντες τισὶν ἢ μιμούμενοι ἑτέρους. καὶ ὄνομα μὲν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐς ὀλίγους ἀλλ' ἐς πλείονας οἰκεῖν δημοκρατία κέκληται· μέτεστι δὲ κατὰ μὲν τοὺς νόμους πρὸς τὰ ἴδια διάφορα πᾶσι τὸ ἴσον, κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἀξίωσιν, ὡς ἕκαστος ἔν τῳ εὐδοκιμεῖ, οὐκ ἀπὸ μέρους τὸ πλέον ἐς τὰ κοινὰ ἢ ἀπ' ἀρετῆς προτιμᾶται, οὐδ' αὖ κατὰ πενίαν, ἔχων γέ τι ἀγαθὸν δρᾶσαι τὴν πόλιν, ἀξιώματος ἀφανείᾳ κεκώλυται. ἐλευθέρως δὲ τά τε πρὸς τὸ κοινὸν πολιτεύομεν καὶ ἐς τὴν πρὸς ἀλλήλους τῶν καθ' ἡμέραν ἐπιτηδευμάτων ὑποψίαν, οὐ δι' ὀργῆς τὸν πέλας, εἰ καθ' ἡδονήν τι δρᾷ, ἔχοντες, οὐδὲ ἀζημίους μέν, λυπηρὰς δὲ τῇ ὄψει ἀχθηδόνας προστιθέμενοι. ἀνεπαχθῶς δὲ τὰ ἴδια προσομιλοῦντες τὰ δημόσια διὰ δέος μάλιστα οὐ παρανομοῦμεν, τῶν τε αἰεὶ ἐν ἀρχῇ ὄντων ἀκροάσει καὶ τῶν νόμων, καὶ μάλιστα αὐτῶν ὅσοι τε ἐπ' ὠφελίᾳ τῶν ἀδικουμένων κεῖνται καὶ ὅσοι ἄγραφοι ὄντες αἰσχύνην ὁμολογουμένην φέρουσιν.
"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace."
This passage introduces us to the idea of Athenian "democracy," not as "rule of the people, " which I suppose would be "demarchy," but "power (or force ) of the people," because it is "for" ("ἐς'') the many rather than the few. It boasts of an equality of opportunity in public life that is claimed absolutely, but which we would immediately discount because of the exclusion of slaves and women (the exclusion of foreigners and children from public life we still pretty much observe). It is, in short, more directly participatory than our own "democracy," but with a considerably smaller percentage of the population participating.
There is also the assertion that this social equality in government ("πρὸς τὸ κοινὸν ," "regarding the common") also applies to ordinary life, ("ἐς τὴν πρὸς ἀλλήλους τῶν καθ' ἡμέραν ἐπιτηδευμάτων,"daily pursuits with respect to each other"). This freedom may be offensive, but it isn't lawless, for two reasons: first, because of the legal protection against injury, and second, because of the disgrace attending the breaking of unwritten codes.
When we think of the legal protection against injury we immediately think of our own system, whereby civil wrongs, or torts, are redressed, for bodily injury, or injury to reputation. The Greek notion is probably a little broader. The phrase used, "ὅσοι τε ἐπ' ὠφελίᾳ τῶν ἀδικουμένων κεῖνται ," "whatever is owed as a result of injustice," has a rather broader meaning than we would normally expect, I think. To take one example, from Douglas MacDowell's The Law in Classical Athens, there was a legal penalty for the commission of hybris, which is "indulging in conduct which is bad, or at best useless, because it is what he wants to do, having no regard for the wishes or rights of other people,"--in other words, in misusing energy or power self-indulgently. Now admittedly the evidence MacDowell cites is later than the Age of Pericles--from Aristotle and Demosthenes. But I think that it illustrates the often-overlooked differences between the freedom (and indifference) of our mass societies and the considerably greater expected social conformity of smaller, self-contained communities like Athens. Plainly Plato, who associated the execution of Socrates with Athenian democratic tendencies, didn't find the Periclean balance satisfactory.