How Did the Ancient Greece Government Work?

How Did the Ancient Greece Government Work?

Ancient Greece, known for its rich history and influential culture, also had a unique system of government. The structure and functioning of the government in ancient Greece played a significant role in shaping the development of democracy as we know it today. Let’s dive into the details of how the ancient Greek government worked.

Greek City-States

The ancient Greek government was not a centralized system but rather consisted of independent city-states. Each city-state, or “polis,” had its own government, laws, and customs. The most well-known city-states were Athens, Sparta, and Corinth.


In ancient Greece, citizenship was limited to adult free-born men who were born in the city-state. Women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from citizenship rights and participation in political affairs.

The Assembly

The assembly was the main decision-making body in ancient Greek democracy. It consisted of all eligible male citizens who would gather regularly to discuss issues concerning their city-state. They had the power to make decisions on matters such as war, legislation, and public policy.


City-states in ancient Greece had different forms of rulership. Some city-states were oligarchies ruled by a small group of wealthy individuals called oligarchs.

Others had tyrants who seized power by force or through popular support. Athens is famous for being one of the earliest examples of democracy where power was vested in the hands of the people.

Athenian Democracy

Athens is often regarded as the birthplace of democracy. In Athens’ democratic system, all eligible male citizens could participate directly in decision-making through voting on various issues.

Popular Assembly

The popular assembly, or “ekklesia,” was the heart of Athenian democracy. Every citizen had the right to attend and vote in the assembly. They could propose and debate laws, elect officials, and make crucial decisions for the city-state.


Athens also had several councils that played important roles in governance. The most significant council was the Council of Five Hundred, which consisted of randomly chosen citizens who helped draft legislation and supervised government affairs.


The Athenian legal system included courts where citizens served as jurors. They would decide on both civil and criminal cases, ensuring a fair trial for all.

Spartan Oligarchy

Unlike Athens, Sparta was an oligarchy ruled by a small group of elite citizens known as the Spartiates.

The Two Kings

Sparta had two kings who served as military commanders but held limited political power. The kings belonged to different royal families and shared authority to prevent any one family from becoming too dominant.

Council of Elders

The Council of Elders, or Gerousia, consisted of 28 elders over the age of 60 along with the two kings. They were responsible for proposing laws and advising the kings.

Popular Assembly in Sparta?

In contrast to Athens, Sparta did not have a popular assembly where all citizens could participate in decision-making directly. Instead, they relied on a system heavily influenced by aristocratic families who held considerable power within the city-state.

In Conclusion

Ancient Greece had a diverse range of governmental systems across its city-states.

From the early oligarchies to the democratic Athenian model and the unique Spartan oligarchy, each system shaped the political landscape of ancient Greece. The legacy of ancient Greek governance continues to influence modern democratic principles.