How Was the Government Structured in Ancient Greece?

Government structure in Ancient Greece was quite unique and different from what we see in modern democracies. Let’s explore the various elements that made up the government system of this ancient civilization.

The City-State: Polis

In Ancient Greece, the city-state, known as polis, was the fundamental political unit. Each polis had its own government, laws, and customs. The two most famous and influential city-states were Athens and Sparta.


Athens is often considered the birthplace of democracy. It had a democratic government where decisions were made by a large number of citizens.

However, it is important to note that not all residents of Athens were considered citizens. Only free adult males who had completed military training were eligible for citizenship.

The Assembly: The Assembly was the main governing body in Athens. It consisted of all eligible male citizens who could vote on important decisions such as war, legislation, and public policy matters.

Councils: To aid decision-making, Athens had various councils composed of randomly selected citizens. The most notable council was the Council of 500 or Boule. Members served for one year and were responsible for proposing laws to be discussed and voted upon by the Assembly.

Courts: Athens also had a judicial system consisting of courts where citizens could bring their disputes for resolution.


Sparta had a different form of government compared to Athens. Instead of democracy, it practiced an oligarchic system with two kings at its head.

The Gerousia: The Gerousia was a council consisting of 28 elders over the age of 60 along with the two kings. They served as the highest decision-making body, proposing and voting on laws.

The Ephors: The Ephors were elected officials responsible for maintaining law and order. They had the power to veto decisions made by the Gerousia and even remove kings from power if deemed necessary.

The Assembly: While not as powerful as in Athens, Sparta also had an assembly where citizens could voice their opinions and vote on certain matters.


Ancient Greece had a diverse range of government structures across its city-states. Athens embraced democracy, while Sparta favored an oligarchic system. The government structure in Ancient Greece laid the foundation for modern democracy and continues to influence political systems today.