Were There Monarchies in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece is widely known for its contributions to philosophy, literature, art, and science. However, it’s not as well-known that Ancient Greece was also a hub of political experimentation. The Greeks were the first to experiment with democracy, but they also experimented with other forms of government, including monarchies.

What is a Monarchy

A monarchy is a form of government where a single person holds supreme power. This person is usually referred to as the monarch or king/queen.

The monarch’s power can be absolute or limited depending on the system of government in place. In an absolute monarchy, the monarch has complete control over the government and all its functions. In contrast, a limited monarchy has checks and balances in place that limit the monarch’s power.

The Mycenaean Monarchy

The Mycenaean civilization was one of the earliest civilizations in Ancient Greece, dating back to around 1600 BC. They were known for their impressive palaces and fortresses and were ruled by kings who held absolute power over their subjects. These kings were considered divine beings and had full control over every aspect of their kingdom.

The Mycenaean monarchy came to an end around 1100 BC after being invaded by foreign forces, leading to the collapse of their civilization.

The Spartan Monarchy

Sparta was one of the most powerful city-states in Ancient Greece and had a unique system of government that included two kings ruling together. This system was put in place to prevent any one person from having too much power.

However, both kings had limited power as they were subject to approval by other officials such as the ephors (magistrates) and gerousia (senate). The Spartan monarchy came to an end around 221 BC when the last king was deposed.

The Macedonian Monarchy

The Macedonian monarchy was established by King Philip II in 359 BC and continued under his son Alexander the Great. The Macedonian kings held absolute power and were considered divine beings.

However, they were also responsible for expanding the Macedonian empire and bringing Greek culture to other parts of the world. The Macedonian monarchy came to an end in 168 BC after being conquered by Rome.

The Hellenistic Monarchies

After Alexander the Great’s death, his empire was divided among his generals who established their own monarchies in various parts of the world. These monarchies were known as the Hellenistic kingdoms and included the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, the Seleucid kingdom in Persia, and the Antigonid kingdom in Macedonia.

These monarchies had varying degrees of power with some being absolute and others being limited. They continued until they were conquered by Rome during its expansion throughout Europe.


In conclusion, while democracy is often associated with Ancient Greece, there were also several instances of monarchies throughout their history. From the Mycenaean monarchy to the Macedonian monarchy and beyond, Ancient Greece experimented with various forms of government before eventually settling on democracy as their preferred system.