Ancient Greek Government Facts
Ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy, therefore when we think about ancient Greek government what comes to mind is a democratic society. However, democracy
was only one type of government found in ancient Greece. The form of government varied from city-state to city-state and within city-states changed over time. On this
page we list interesting facts about what types of governments existed in the various city-states of this ancient civilization during various periods in history. This
information is written for both kids and adults.
Interesting Ancient Greek Government Facts
- Basically three forms of governments existed in ancient Greece. City-states at different points in history would often transition to a different form of government
sometimes a city-state would be a combination of these different forms of government. These forms are:
- Monarchy - ruled by one individual like a king.
- Oligarchy - ruled by a small group of people.
- Democracy - ruled by the people, either directly or through representatives.
- Early on in its history ancient Greece was made up of self-governing city-states each one ruled by a different king.
- The ancient city-state of Sparta was originally ruled by monarchs but over time developed a unique form of government. This government had two kings and other
of government called Gerontes (28 members), Ephors (5 members), and Demos (all male citizens age 30 and above). The Spartan government had an early form of
governmental checks and balances meaning no one branch had overall authority; for example a king could be tried by the Ephors.
Ancient Greek Democracy Facts
- Democracy in the city-state (polis) of Athens appeared around the fifth century BC. It was the first democracy in the history of the world.
- Athens is where democracy originated however other Greek city-states, like Syracuse, Argos, Erythrai, and Rhodes also developed governments with forms of
- The word "democracy" is derived from the ancient Greek words demos, meaning "people" and kratos, meaning "power"; therefore meaning power of the people.
- In Athenian democracy citizens, who qualified to vote, voted directly on laws and issues subject to a vote. This differs from modern day democracies where citizens
vote for a person to represent them, such as U.S. state senator, and then that person votes on the law or issue.
- An interesting fact is that most people living in the ancient democracy of Athens did not have the right to vote. Voting was limited to men who had been trained in
military (ephebes). Excluded from voting were women, slaves, slaves who had been freed, children, and foreigners living in Athens (called metics).
- There were three governmental bodies in Athens democracy; they were the assembly, council and the courts.
- The main political body of the Athenian democratic government was the assembly, which consisted of thousands of citizens.
- The assembly made important decisions for this ancient civilization; including whether or not to go to war, granting citizenship for individuals, and at times in
history tried crimes.
- A typical meeting of the assembly involved several speakers trying to convince the voters to vote a certain way about a certain matter, like whether or not to go
war. After all the speakers were done a simple yes or no vote, usually by show of hands, would be taken.
- Ancient Athens had an intricate legal system with decisions being made by citizens referred to as jurors in the political body called the courts. A citizen had to
at least 30 years old to participate as a juror. The courts, made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of jurors, would make decisions on various kinds of
- Political satire was common at the theatres in Athens; which often influenced voters on certain issues.