What Is Meant by Democracy in Ancient Greek Times?

In ancient Greece, democracy was a form of government where the power was vested in the hands of the people. The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words: “demos,” meaning “people,” and “kratos,” meaning “power.” Thus, democracy literally means “power to the people.”

Democracy in ancient Greece was different from modern democracies. In Athens, for example, only free men who were born in Athens could take part in the democratic process.

Women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from it. This is because ancient Greeks believed that only those who had a stake in society should have a say in how it was governed.

The basic principle of democracy in ancient Greece was that all citizens had an equal say in decision-making. This meant that decisions were made by majority vote. However, ancient Greeks also believed that it was important to protect minority rights and prevent tyranny of the majority.

To achieve this balance between majority rule and minority rights, ancient Greeks developed several institutions and practices. One such institution was the assembly, or ekklesia.

The assembly met every ten days to debate and vote on important issues affecting Athens. Any citizen could attend the assembly and speak their mind.

Another institution of democracy in ancient Greece was the council of 500 or boule. The council consisted of 500 citizens chosen by lot, who served for one year as advisers to the assembly. They proposed legislation and oversaw the implementation of laws passed by the assembly.

To ensure accountability and transparency in government, officials were chosen by lot rather than through elections or appointments. This meant that any citizen could be chosen to serve as an official for a limited period of time.

Another important practice in ancient Greek democracy was ostracism. Ostracism allowed citizens to vote to banish someone from Athens for ten years if they were seen as a threat to democracy or society.

In conclusion, democracy in ancient Greece was a form of government where power was vested in the hands of the people. All citizens had an equal say in decision-making, and decisions were made by majority vote.

However, ancient Greeks also believed in protecting minority rights and preventing tyranny of the majority. To achieve this, they developed institutions and practices such as the assembly, council of 500, choosing officials by lot, and ostracism.