Democracy is a widely accepted form of government that allows the citizens to have a say in how their country operates. However, it may come as a surprise to many that this concept dates back to ancient Greece.
The Greek city-states were some of the first societies to experiment with democracy as a form of governance. But what type of democracy did ancient Greece use? Let’s dive in and explore.
Athens and Its Democracy
Athens, one of the most well-known ancient Greek city-states, is often considered the birthplace of democracy. In Athens, democracy was practiced in the form of direct democracy, where all eligible citizens had an equal say in decision-making.
Who Was Considered an Eligible Citizen?
In Athens, only free adult males who were born in the city-state or had been granted citizenship were eligible for participation in democratic processes. This excluded women, children, slaves and non-citizens from participating in the government.
The main governing body of Athens was the Assembly (Ekklesia), which met at least once every 10 days. In these meetings, any citizen could speak or propose laws and policies for discussion. All proposals were voted on by a show of hands.
Another key element of Athenian democracy was the Council (Boule). This was made up of 500 members who were chosen by lot each year. The Council’s role was to prepare legislation for discussion in the Assembly and manage day-to-day affairs.
Sparta and Its Oligarchy
While Athens practiced direct democracy, Sparta used a very different system known as oligarchy.
Who Ruled Sparta?
Sparta was ruled by two kings who shared power equally. However, they did not hold absolute power; they were checked by a council of 28 elders. This council was responsible for proposing laws and policies that would then be voted on by an assembly of male citizens.
In Sparta, only a small group of people were considered full citizens: men who had completed their military training and were over the age of 30. Women, slaves, and non-citizens had no political rights.
In summary, ancient Greece experimented with different forms of democracy and governance. Athens practiced direct democracy where all eligible citizens had an equal say in decision-making.
Sparta, on the other hand, used an oligarchic system where only a select few had any political power. Despite their differences, these systems set the groundwork for modern-day democracy and continue to shape our understanding of governance today.
- Key Takeaways:
- Athens practiced direct democracy where all eligible citizens had an equal say in decision-making.
- Sparta used an oligarchic system where only a select few had any political power.
- Ancient Greece’s experimentation with different forms of democracy set the groundwork for modern-day democracy.