What Was Royalty Called in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the concept of royalty was quite different from what we understand today. The Greek city-states were ruled by various forms of government, including monarchies, oligarchies, and democracies.

However, their rulers were not referred to as “kings” or “queens” like in modern times. So what were they called? Let’s explore.

Monarchy in Ancient Greece

Monarchy was one of the earliest forms of government in ancient Greece. In a monarchy, the ruler is a single person who inherits the position from their family. However, even in a monarchy, the ruler was not referred to as a king or queen.

What Did Greeks Call Their Monarchs?

The term used for monarchs in ancient Greece was “basileus.” The word roughly translates to “chief” or “leader.”

However, it’s important to note that not all basileis were monarchs. In some cases, basileus referred to a military leader or even a priest.

Oligarchy in Ancient Greece

An oligarchy is a form of government where power is held by a small group of people. These individuals often come from wealthy or influential families and hold significant sway over political decisions.

What Did Greeks Call Their Oligarchs?

The term used for members of an oligarchy was “aristoi.” This word translates to “the best” or “the noblest.” It’s important to note that while aristoi held significant power, they were not necessarily royalty.

Athenian Democracy

Athenian democracy was one of the most well-known forms of government in ancient Greece. In this system, all citizens had an equal say in political decisions and could vote on laws and policies.

What Did Greeks Call Their Democratic Leaders?

In Athens, the leaders of the democracy were referred to as “strategoi.” This term translates to “generals,” as many of these leaders had military experience. However, it’s important to note that strategoi were elected officials and not necessarily members of a ruling family.


While the concept of royalty in ancient Greece was different from what we understand today, there were still individuals who held significant power and influence over their city-states. The terms used to refer to these rulers varied depending on the form of government and their specific role. From basileus to aristoi to strategoi, each term carries its own unique meaning and history in ancient Greek society.