Did Ancient Greece Have Kings or Emperors?

In ancient Greece, the political system varied across different city-states and time periods. While some city-states had kings, others had emperors. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of ancient Greek politics and explore the roles of kings and emperors.

Kings in Ancient Greece

In certain city-states, such as Sparta, monarchy was the prevailing form of government. These states were ruled by a single individual known as a king.

The position of king was usually hereditary, meaning it was passed down from father to son. The king held significant power and was considered the highest authority in the state.

Fun fact: In Sparta, there were two kings ruling simultaneously, which helped maintain a balance of power.

Emperors in Ancient Greece

The term “emperor” is often associated with ancient Rome rather than ancient Greece. However, there were instances where individuals held similar positions in Greek history.

Alexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, is a prime example of an individual who could be considered an emperor. After conquering vast territories including Persia and Egypt, Alexander established an empire that stretched from Greece to India.

He exercised absolute power over his conquered lands and held the title of “basileus,” which can be translated as both “king” and “emperor. “

The Hellenistic Age

Following Alexander’s death in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented into several smaller states ruled by his generals and successors. This period is known as the Hellenistic Age.

Many of these successors also adopted the title of “basileus” or “emperor.” The most famous among them was Ptolemy I, who founded the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt.


In conclusion, ancient Greece had both kings and emperors, depending on the city-state and time period. While kingship was more common in certain city-states like Sparta, individuals like Alexander the Great and his successors held positions that can be considered as emperor-like due to their extensive authority over multiple territories. The political landscape of ancient Greece was diverse and continually evolving.

Note: It’s important to note that the terms “king” and “emperor” used here are translations from ancient Greek terms and may not perfectly align with modern definitions.