What Did the Legislative Do in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the legislative branch of government played a crucial role in shaping the political landscape of the ancient world. The legislative body was responsible for making and enforcing laws that governed society. The system of government in Ancient Greece was known as a democracy, where citizens had a say in the decision-making process.

The Athenian Democracy

The Athenian democracy is one of the most well-known examples of democracy in Ancient Greece. It was founded in 508 BCE and lasted for almost two centuries. The Athenian democracy was characterized by its direct form of government, where all male citizens had an equal say in decision-making processes.

The Assembly

The main legislative body in Athens was known as the Assembly. It was made up of all eligible citizens who were at least 18 years old and had completed their military training. The Assembly met 40 times a year and discussed issues that affected the city-state.

The decisions made by the Assembly were binding and could not be overturned by any other branch of government. Each citizen had the right to speak at meetings, debate issues, and vote on laws.

The Council

The Council was another important part of the legislative branch in Athens. It consisted of 500 members who were chosen by lot each year. The Council’s main responsibility was to prepare legislation for discussion in the Assembly.

In addition to this, it also oversaw day-to-day administration, such as financial matters and foreign policy. Members served for one year and could only serve twice during their lifetime.

The Spartan Oligarchy

Sparta had a very different form of government compared to Athens. Sparta’s system was an oligarchy, which meant that power was held by a small group of people rather than being evenly distributed among citizens.

The Gerousia

The main legislative body in Sparta was known as the Gerousia. It consisted of 28 members who were over the age of 60 and had previously served as one of the two kings. The Gerousia was responsible for making and enforcing laws.

  • The Gerousia also acted as a court of law, hearing cases of both civil and criminal nature.
  • Members served for life, and their decisions were final.

    The Ephors

    Another important part of Spartan government was the Ephors. They were responsible for overseeing the education system and enforcing laws that had been passed by the Gerousia. The Ephors also had the power to impeach members of the Gerousia if they were deemed unfit to serve.


    The legislative branch played a crucial role in Ancient Greek society. In Athens, it provided citizens with a means to directly participate in decision-making processes, while in Sparta, it ensured that a small group of individuals governed effectively. Regardless of form or structure, the legislative branch represented an important aspect of Ancient Greek democracy and government.