How Long Did Ancient Greece Use Democracy?

Democracy, as a form of government, originated in ancient Greece. It was a radical concept that gave power to the people rather than a select few. The Athenians introduced the world’s first democracy in the fifth century BCE, but how long did ancient Greece use democracy?

Birth of Democracy in Ancient Greece

The concept of democracy emerged in Athens, Greece, around 508 BCE. Cleisthenes, an Athenian statesman, introduced democratic reforms that allowed citizens to participate in their government. The reforms included dividing Athens into ten tribes and allowing every male citizen over the age of 18 to vote and hold office.

The Golden Age of Athens

The fifth century BCE is considered the golden age of Athens. During this period, Athens experienced significant growth in terms of culture, economy, and political power. This growth was due to the flourishing democracy that allowed citizens to participate actively in their government.

Athenian Democracy

Athenian democracy was a direct form of democracy where citizens voted directly on laws and policies. Every male citizen had an equal right to vote and participate in public life. Women were not considered citizens and could not participate in the democratic process.

The End of Athenian Democracy

The end of Athenian democracy came with the defeat of Athens by Sparta in 404 BCE during the Peloponnesian War. The Spartan defeat marked the end of Athenian dominance and led to its eventual decline.

Legacy of Athenian Democracy

Despite its downfall, Athenian democracy left a lasting legacy on Western civilization. The concept of democratic governance and citizen participation has been adopted by many governments around the world.


Ancient Greece used democracy for approximately two centuries from 508 BCE until its defeat by Sparta in 404 BCE. This period is known as the golden age of Athens, and Athenian democracy is considered a radical concept that gave power to the people. Although Athenian democracy ended, its legacy has influenced modern governments worldwide.