How Were Senators Chosen in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the system of government was centered around the concept of democracy. One of the key aspects of this democratic system was the selection of senators who played a crucial role in governing the city-states. Let’s take a closer look at how senators were chosen in Ancient Greece.

The Athenian Democracy

Athens, one of the most prominent city-states in Ancient Greece, is often considered the birthplace of democracy. The Athenian democracy relied on a direct form of government where all eligible citizens had the right to participate in decision-making.

The Council of 500

One important institution within Athenian democracy was the Council of 500, also known as the Boule. This council was responsible for proposing and preparing laws and policies that would be discussed and voted upon by all eligible citizens.

  • Selection Process: The members of the Council were chosen by lottery from a pool of eligible citizens. Each year, 50 citizens from each of the ten tribes were selected to serve on the Council, resulting in a total of 500 members.
  • Eligibility: To be eligible for selection, individuals had to be male Athenian citizens over the age of 30 who had completed their military training.
  • Term: The term for serving on the Council was one year, and members could only serve two non-consecutive terms in their lifetime.

The Senate

In addition to the Council of 500, Athens also had a Senate known as Areopagus. This body played a supervisory role and consisted mainly of former archons (high-ranking officials). Unlike the Council, membership in the Senate was not obtained through lottery but rather by appointment or election.

Other City-States

While Athens is often associated with democracy, it’s important to note that other Greek city-states had different methods of selecting their senators.

  • Sparta: In Sparta, the senatorial body was known as the Gerousia. It consisted of 28 elders over the age of 60, along with the two kings.

    Members were elected for life.

  • Thebes: The Theban senate, known as the Boeotarchia, consisted of eleven members who were elected annually and held executive and legislative powers.
  • Corinth: Corinth had a council called the BoulÄ“ consisting of 80 members who served for one year. Members were chosen from among citizens over the age of 30.


The selection process for senators in Ancient Greece varied depending on the city-state. In Athens, a lottery system was used to select members for the Council of 500, while in other city-states such as Sparta and Corinth, elections or appointments determined senatorial membership. Despite these differences, the role of senators was crucial in shaping Ancient Greek society and governance.

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