What Was the Head of the Government Called in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the head of the government was known as the “Archon Basileus.” This position was established in Athens around the 8th century BCE and played a crucial role in the political structure of the city-state. Let’s explore more about who held this prestigious title and what their responsibilities were.

The Archon Basileus

The Archon Basileus, also known as the King Archon, was one of the nine archons who governed Athens. Unlike other archons who were chosen by a lottery system, the Archon Basileus was elected through a specific process. This individual held a position of great honor and power within Athenian society.


The primary responsibility of the Archon Basileus was to serve as the religious and judicial authority in Athens. They presided over various religious ceremonies and rituals, ensuring that they were conducted according to proper protocols. The Archon Basileus also had jurisdiction over cases involving religious matters.

Additionally, this position carried significant legal duties. The Archon Basileus had authority over cases related to homicide and other serious crimes. They played a crucial role in maintaining order and justice within Athenian society.

Symbolic Role

Beyond their practical responsibilities, the Archon Basileus also held a symbolic role within ancient Greek culture. They embodied both religious and royal aspects of governance, acting as a representative of divine authority on earth.

The Archon Basileus wore distinctive attire during official ceremonies, including a purple robe adorned with golden ornaments. This regalia signified their elevated status and set them apart from other archons.


The head of government in ancient Greece was known as the Archon Basileus or King Archon. This position held significant religious, judicial, and symbolic power within Athenian society. The Archon Basileus played a vital role in maintaining order, justice, and the observance of religious practices.

Understanding the role of the Archon Basileus provides valuable insights into the political and cultural dynamics of ancient Greece.