How Did the Government Work in Ancient Greece?

The ancient Greeks were known for creating the first western civilization and establishing democracy as a form of government. But how did the government work in ancient Greece? Let’s take a closer look.


In ancient Greece, there were several independent city-states, each with their own government. The most famous of these was Athens, which is often considered the birthplace of democracy.

Athenian Democracy

Athenian democracy was a direct form of democracy, where every citizen had a say in the government. However, not everyone was considered a citizen in Athens. Only free men who were born in Athens and over 18 years old were allowed to vote.

The Assembly

The Assembly was the main governing body in Athens. It was made up of all eligible citizens and met once a month to discuss important issues and make decisions. The Assembly voted on everything from war and peace to building projects and festivals.

  • Fun Fact: The word “democracy” comes from the Greek words “demos” (people) and “kratos” (power).

The Council

The Council was a smaller group of citizens who were responsible for proposing laws and policies to be voted on by the Assembly. They also oversaw the day-to-day operations of the city-state.

Spartan Government

Sparta was another powerful city-state in ancient Greece, but their government was very different from that of Athens.

The Dual Monarchy

Sparta had two kings who ruled jointly, making it the only ancient Greek city-state with a dual monarchy. These kings were responsible for leading Sparta’s military campaigns and making important decisions about foreign policy.

The Council of Elders

The Council of Elders was a group of 28 men over the age of 60 who were chosen for life. They had the power to veto any decision made by the Assembly or the kings.

The Assembly

The Assembly in Sparta was made up of all free Spartan men over the age of 30. However, they had very little power and could only vote yes or no on decisions proposed by the kings.

  • Fun Fact: Sparta was known for its strict militaristic society, and boys as young as seven were taken from their families to begin their military training.

The Legacy of Ancient Greek Government

The government structures created by the ancient Greeks have had a lasting impact on western civilization. The concept of democracy, with its emphasis on citizen participation and equal representation, has become a cornerstone of modern democratic societies. The idea that government power should be shared and checked by different branches or groups is also an important part of many modern governments.

In conclusion, the ancient Greeks developed unique systems of government in their independent city-states that have influenced modern political philosophy. From Athenian democracy to Spartan dual monarchy, these governments shaped Western civilization in ways that are still felt today.