How Was Ancient Greece Governed?

Ancient Greece is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, including its literature, art, philosophy, and politics. The political system that existed in Ancient Greece was unique and diverse, with different regions having different forms of government. Let’s explore how Ancient Greece was governed.

The City-States

Ancient Greece was not a unified country; it consisted of several city-states or poleis such as Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and many more. Each city-state had its own government system. Some were democracies; others were oligarchies or monarchies.

Athenian Democracy

Athens is widely regarded as the birthplace of democracy. It was the first city-state to adopt a democratic form of government in 508 BCE. All citizens (excluding women, slaves, and foreigners) could participate in the Assembly (Ecclesia), where they could propose laws and vote on them.

The Athenian democracy also had a council of 500 members (Boule), which supervised the daily affairs of the state. The council members were selected by lot from among the citizens.

In addition to these bodies, there were also courts where citizens acted as judges and decided on cases brought before them.

Spartan Oligarchy

Sparta had a unique form of government called an oligarchy which means “rule by few.” There were two kings who ruled jointly in Sparta. However, they did not have absolute power but shared it with five ephors who were elected annually from among the citizens.

The Spartan Assembly (Apella) consisted only of male citizens over 30 years old who elected officials and voted on proposals brought before them by the ephors or kings.

The League Of Corinth

The League of Corinth was formed in 337 BCE under the leadership of Philip II of Macedon. It was a federation of several Greek city-states that aimed to unify Greece under the leadership of Macedon.

The League had a council of representatives from each member state who decided on matters related to defense, foreign policy, and trade.

The Hellenistic Kingdoms

After Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE, his empire was divided among his generals who established their own kingdoms. These kingdoms were called Hellenistic Kingdoms and included Macedonia, Egypt, Syria, and others.

Each kingdom had its own form of government, typically a monarchy. However, some of them also adopted aspects of Greek democracy or oligarchy.


In conclusion, Ancient Greece had a diverse range of political systems that varied from city-state to city-state. The Athenian democracy is perhaps the most well-known due to its influence on modern democracies.

The city-states were often at war with each other but also formed alliances such as the League of Corinth. The Hellenistic kingdoms that emerged after Alexander’s death continued this tradition of diverse governance.