How Are Leaders Chosen in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the process of choosing leaders was vastly different from modern-day systems. The Greeks believed in a form of government known as democracy, where citizens had a say in the decision-making process.

However, not all citizens were considered eligible to be leaders. Let’s explore how leaders were chosen in Ancient Greece.

Citizenship and Eligibility

First and foremost, to be considered for leadership positions in Ancient Greece, one had to be a citizen. Citizenship was generally limited to adult males who were born to Athenian parents. Women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from participating in the political process.

Only adult males with Athenian parentage were eligible for leadership positions.

The Assembly

The heart of the democratic system was the Assembly or Ekklesia. This was an open meeting where every eligible citizen could participate and voice their opinions on various matters of importance. The Assembly met at regular intervals to discuss and vote on issues such as legislation, military matters, and even the election of key officials.

Voting Procedures

Voting in Ancient Greece was done by raising hands or casting secret ballots made from shards of pottery called ostraca. If a majority vote was reached on a particular issue or candidate, it became law or determined who would assume leadership roles.

Importance of Rhetoric

Rhetoric played a significant role in influencing the decisions made by the Assembly. Leaders who sought support for their ideas had to be skilled orators capable of swaying public opinion through persuasive speeches.


In addition to regular voting procedures, Ancient Greece also had an extraordinary measure known as ostracism. Ostracism was a process where citizens could vote to exile individuals deemed too powerful or potentially harmful to the state. If a certain number of votes were cast against an individual during an ostracism vote, that person would be banished from Athens for ten years.

Ostracism allowed citizens to protect the democratic system from potential tyrants or oppressive leaders.

Leadership Positions

Ancient Greece had various leadership positions, each with its own selection process. Some notable positions include:

  • Archons: These were nine individuals who served as the chief magistrates of Athens. They were chosen through elections held annually.
  • Strategoi: Strategoi were military commanders who led Athens’ armed forces.

    They were elected by popular vote, with ten strategoi serving concurrently.

  • Council Members: The Council of Five Hundred was responsible for proposing and drafting legislation. Members of the council were chosen by sortition, a random selection process.

The selection processes for leadership positions varied depending on the nature of the role and its responsibilities.

The Role of Wealth

In Ancient Greece, wealth often played a significant role in politics. While being wealthy did not automatically guarantee leadership positions, it provided individuals with access to resources and opportunities that could help them gain influence within the political arena.

Wealth could indirectly influence the chances of becoming a leader in Ancient Greece.

In Conclusion

Ancient Greece’s method of choosing leaders revolved around democratic principles, citizen participation, and various voting procedures. Citizenship was a prerequisite for eligibility, and decisions were made through open assemblies and voting.

Rhetoric played a crucial role in swaying public opinion, while ostracism ensured the protection of democracy. Leadership positions had different selection processes, and wealth could indirectly impact one’s chances of becoming a leader.

Ancient Greece’s system of selecting leaders laid the foundation for future democratic systems and continues to influence political systems around the world today.