What Was Democracy in Ancient Greece?

Democracy is a term that has been widely used and practiced for centuries. But, did you know that it originated in Ancient Greece?

Yes, that’s right! The Greeks were the first to establish a democratic form of government. In this article, we will take a closer look at what democracy was in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece and its Government

Ancient Greece was made up of several city-states, also known as poleis. Each polis had its own government and laws.

Some were ruled by monarchs, while others were run by oligarchs who were wealthy citizens. However, Athens was the first city-state to introduce democracy.

The Birth of Democracy in Athens

Throughout the 6th and 5th centuries BC, Athens underwent significant changes in its political system. The Athenians wanted to have a say in their government and demanded more rights. This led to the establishment of democracy.

In 508 BC, Cleisthenes introduced a set of reforms that created a new political system based on the principle of equality before the law. He divided the citizens into ten tribes based on their location rather than their social status or wealth.

Who Could Participate in Democracy?

Not everyone could participate in democracy in Ancient Greece. Only male citizens who were over 18 years old and born in Athens could vote or hold public office. Women, slaves, foreigners, and children were not allowed to participate.

How Did Democracy Work?

The Athenian assembly was responsible for making decisions on behalf of the people. The assembly met at least once a month on the Pnyx hill near the Acropolis. During these meetings, citizens could voice their opinions on various matters such as war, taxes, laws, and policies.

The assembly elected officials known as strategoi (generals) who were responsible for running the military and conducting wars. They also elected archons, who were responsible for enforcing the laws and managing the city’s finances.

The Importance of Jury Trials in Democracy

The Athenians believed that justice was an essential part of democracy. They established jury trials where citizens could serve as jurors and decide on cases involving crimes, disputes, and other legal matters. The accused had a right to defend themselves in front of a jury of their peers.

The Downfall of Democracy in Athens

Despite its successes, democracy in Ancient Greece had its flaws. It was often disrupted by internal conflicts, corruption, and political rivalries. In 404 BC, Athens was defeated by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, which led to the downfall of democracy.


In conclusion, democracy had its roots in Ancient Greece. The Athenians established a system that allowed citizens to have a say in their government and participate in decision-making processes. Although it had its flaws, democracy remains an essential concept that has influenced modern governments around the world.